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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Heart doctor speaks about stress, health

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The Collegian logo

By Gabriel Burnaman/reporter

Many people worry about heart disease, but a cardiologist at Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth spoke about the signs of stress and what can be done to redirect them.

Scott Ewing told students and staff Feb. 19 on NW Campus about everyday sources of stress that hurt people in small increments over time.

“Stress takes on many forms,” Ewing said. “We all have opportunities to be stressed. Does it affect our bodies? Yes.”

Ewing, a former engineer, is not a surgeon. He is an interventional cardiologist whose job is to intervene with life-saving measures when something goes wrong with the heart.

After finishing one profession as a mechanical engineer at Texas Instruments, he went back to school in 1997, graduating from the University of North Texas Health Science Center with specialties in internal medicine and cardiology.

“I’m living proof that it is never too late to go back to school,” Ewing said.

Stress isn’t simply mentally exhausting, he said. Stress causes physical changes. The easiest explanation is that stress causes adrenaline and cortisol hormones to be released into the body. This translates to blood vessel constriction, an increase in sugar levels and faster breathing, he said.

Stress can be related to natural disasters, caretaking roles, work, interpersonal relationships, finances or changing jobs, Ewing said.

By putting too heavy a workload on conscientious and efficient workers, “we tend to punish our best employees,” he said.

Signs of stress include eating too much, not eating enough, speaking or working too much, procrastinating, trying to do too many things at one time or simply running around too fast.

Harmful coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking, oversleeping or undersleeping can become a looping feedback of stress in themselves, Ewing said.

These can all lead to long-term health problems.

“A classic example is Grandma gets up from the kitchen table, she washes her hands, she hears a big crash, turns around and Grandpa is face down in the soup. That’s sudden cardiac arrest,” he said.

He urged people on the verge of stressing to “slow down, sleep more, let worry go, laugh it up, get organized, practice giving back [and] volunteer your time.”

People who are stressed in one form or another should count to 10 before they speak and take deep slow breaths. People who are angry should wait overnight before sending that email.

“Sleep more and exercise,” he advised. “Learn relaxation techniques and time-management skills. Confront stressful situations. Read a book. Take a bath or a walk.”

He said that ultimately, a healthy diet, quitting smoking and exercising are the top three best actions for lowering stress and improving heart health.

Shelly Piccolo, a dual-credit administrator, said the presentation was informative.

“My mom went through all of this, open heart and stents,” Piccolo said. “So, I was extremely interested.”

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