(ABC) -Stress can be harmful not only mentally, but physically as well. It can be especially bad for your heart.

It doesn't matter who you are, stress is a simple fact of life. It's nearly impossible to avoid it.

"It's really a matter of how you're dealing with stress that is the key point," said Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Dr. Bhatt says stress management is crucial to healthy living, because stress can be harmful in that it raises blood pressure and heart rate.

"Those elevations, if repetitive, if pronounced, can ultimately lead to things like a heart attack or heart failure," Dr. Bhatt said.

Dr. Bhatt says another problem with stress is that it can lead to unhealthy behaviors.

"Not exercising, not eating right, maybe smoking, maybe other bad habits like excessive drinking…that can lead to bad health including bad heart health," Dr. Bhatt said.

So, what are some proven ways to relieve stress?

"I think that exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress," Dr. Bhatt said.

Other potential ways to relieve stress: practice positive thinking, meditate or pray, unplug from electronics—especially at bedtime—get enough sleep and finally, find activities that make you feel good.

In other health news, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma in Lawton, Duncan and Altus are offering free colon cancer screening kits through the end of the month. Visit any of the three locations to pick yours up or inquire about all of your screening options.

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