Heart-stopping plunges. Steep climbs and then, whoosh, another dizzying drop. We’re not talking about the new roller coaster at your favorite amusement park. We mean the stock market’s recent gyrations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average now qualifies as the wildest ride on Earth. Scary? You bet. The market’s violent swings can threaten your fiscal and physical health.
Every 100-point shift increased heart-disease deaths by 5 percent when the Chinese stock market went from boom to bust between 2006 and late 2008. Then last year, Duke researchers connected stock market drops with increases in heart attacks here.
Why are the stock market’s fast moves so bad for your ticker? Plenty of explanations make sense: Sudden stress can strangle blood flow to the heart, boost blood pressure and speed up heart rates. The flood of stress hormones and racing blood may tear open deposits of gunky plaque in artery walls, causing plaque ruptures and dangerous, even deadly clots. And don’t underestimate factors like high saturated-fat stress snacking. Heart attack rates in Los Angeles spiked after a tough Super Bowl loss in 1980, and researchers suspect buckets of chips, dips and Buffalo wings had something to do with it. Cleveland fans just accept disappointment now, says Dr. Mike! That may be a key to health.
Psychologists interviewed during the market’s big August swings say they’re seeing more insomnia, poor concentration, irritability and excessive tension. It’s not a temporary blip. Business-cycle low points have coincided with a rise in depression’s most serious risk — suicide — ever since the Great Depression, says a new government report.
Is your health taking a hit alongside your portfolio? Financial worries are linked with everything from aches and pains to weight gain, fatigue, ulcers, migraines and gastrointestinal upset. While you ride out the economy’s latest rough patch, taking these smart steps will ensure that your health — and maybe your life — aren’t at the mercy of market extremes.
Take a deep breath. Convinced you should have bought, sold or stayed put last week/month? Don’t let “what ifs” make you crazy. Ask almost any financial adviser how to cope with wild market swings and the answer is likely to be: Turn off the business news. Don’t panic. Try to weather the ups and downs calmly. Things eventually will get better. Take the long view, and worry less about day-to-day shifts. Need extra help? Try inhaling calming lavender mixtures. It works for even tenser people: cancer patients enduring lengthy MRI scans.
If you’re a stress eater, stock up on foods you’ve been meaning to eat more of. Think apples, tomatoes, spinach, asparagus, peaches, broccoli and grapes. Instead of letting chips and dip sabotage your health, let late summer’s farm-stand bounty save it.
Tense? Deploy your favorite stress-reduction technique. Gentle yoga, meditation, listening to classic jazz, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, upbeat affirmations, a few sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy — all help many people. Just putting on some quiet music will help; it improves your heart rate and blood pressure. Finding good ways to dial down anxiety can cut your heart-attack danger by 40 percent.
Break a sweat. Pulling on your sneaks may be the last thing you want to do right now, but in 10 minutes you’ll be glad you did. Exercise busts stress, nurtures a healthy heart and can be more effective than many antidepressants. You get a burst of feel-good chemicals now, and a fresh dose every day you keep it up. Not to mention a trimmer waistline.
The market may be down. You don’t have to be.
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.