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How Your Wallet Affects Your Heart

By: American Heritage02.15.24
Stethoscope on a pile of US bills

Whether it’s due to job loss, overreliance on credit, or unexpected expenses, many Americans experience financial stress. If you’re one of them, then you know how difficult it can be—but did you know that it could actually affect your health?

In honor of American Heart Month, learn about the link between financial and physical wellness, as well as tips to better manage your stress and finances for a healthier heart and future.


Financial Stress, Physical Mess

It may sound far-fetched to say that your finances could directly impact your health, but financial stress is just that: stress. Stress causes your body to release hormones that boost alertness and energy, like adrenaline and cortisol, so you’re better equipped to handle a crisis. Though useful in actual emergencies, this response elevates your heart rate and blood pressure.

Intense, repeated, or chronic stress—such as that caused by financial instability—can strain your body because of overexposure to stress hormones, increasing your risk for many health conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Sleep disorders
  • Rashes and itchy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision or sore eyes
  • Sudden weight changes
  • High blood pressure

The latter is one of the more concerning conditions. If not addressed, high blood pressure can cause a cascade of other health problems by damaging your arteries and straining your heart. Ultimately, it increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease—the leading causes of death worldwide. Stress can also cause people to use unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as smoking or overeating, that further increase the risk for heart conditions and other ailments.


The Benefits of Good Money Management

By building your financial literacy and stability, you can effectively reduce your stress levels, leading to numerous benefits:

  • Improved mental and physical health: Stressing less about money can result in better sleep, less anxiety and depression, a healthier immune system, and more, moderating your risk for stress-related conditions like heart disease and stroke.
  • Better lifestyle choices: Smart financial changes are often accompanied by smart lifestyle changes, such as dining out less often, choosing water over more costly drinks, or spending less time watching television because you’ve eliminated some streaming subscriptions.
  • Lower medical costs: The short- and long-term health benefits of reduced financial stress—like improved immune function and reduced risk for chronic conditions—can help keep your healthcare costs in check now and in the future.


Tips for Financial and Physical Wellness

Bolstering your financial wellness and finding healthy ways to manage stress (money-related or otherwise) are essential components of overall health. If you aren’t sure how to get started, the following practical tips can help.


Financial Tips
  • Prioritize savings and debt management: Focus on paying down high-interest debt and saving money for emergencies, retirement, and other important goals.
  • Limit your expenses: Create a list of your expenses to better understand where your money is going, then identify ways to cut costs, like buying discount groceries or shopping around for cheaper auto insurance.
  • Start budgeting: Make an accurate, realistic budget that balances your income, expenses, savings, and debt strategy, and stick to it. Adjust it anytime your financial situation changes, like having a child or getting a raise.
  • Maximize your income: Look for opportunities to make extra income, such as freelancing, and grow your earning potential, like by obtaining a new certification.
  • Plan ahead: Be proactive in preparing your finances for upcoming large expenses, such as holiday gifts or appliance replacements, to minimize reliance on high-interest credit.
  • Use free resources: Take advantage of no-cost financial resources and tools available to you. American Heritage Credit Union members have access to free webinars, community events, financial calculators, in-person advising, and the mobile app Zogo, which lets users earn gift cards as they learn financial literacy.


Stress Management Tips
  • Practice yoga or meditation: These calming activities are popular ways to relieve stress.
  • Get creative: Outlets like painting, playing an instrument, or writing can be therapeutic and fun ways to express yourself and alleviate stress.
  • Stay physical: Whether it’s a brisk walk or endurance training, exercise helps work out nervous energy and releases endorphins that can heighten your mood, making it easier to relax.
  • Think outside the box: Unique activities like rage rooms (where you pay to smash objects in a safe, controlled space) or paintball games can be therapeutic and cathartic, which may help reduce stress.
  • Try a new hobby: Having a special interest that you do just for the joy of it, such as collecting coins, learning to bake, or studying ancient Egypt, can be incredibly beneficial for stress management and overall mental wellness.

For both finances and stress, the most important thing is to know when to seek professional assistance. A trusted financial advisor can help you develop a sound financial plan that guides you toward your goals. A licensed therapist can offer objective insights into your situation and help you learn effective coping skills for stress, anxiety, and depression.


Make the Most of Your Money

This American Heart Month, remember that better managing your finances doesn’t just have monetary benefits—it can have physical ones, too. By working toward a more stable financial future, you’re also working toward a healthier one, with reduced risk for heart disease and other conditions.


If you’re ready to eradicate financial stress from your life, reach out to American Heritage Credit Union. As a member, you have access to financial literacy and budgeting resources designed to support better money management, as well as personalized financial advising services and valuable products like high-yield savings options.



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