Reduce Stress for a Healthier Heart

Whether it’s from everyday deadlines, financial struggles, or the COVID-19 pandemic, stress shows up often in life. And your body reacts to it: your heart rate increases, your blood vessels narrow—and over time, these little blows can add up and do damage to your health, particularly your heart. With chronic stress, you’re more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and poor sleep. Even other parts of your body – from your lungs to your gut – can take a hit.

But while you can’t always limit the amount of stress in your life, you can work on changing how you respond to it. Just like the automatic “fight or flight” response that kicks in when you’re scared – your muscles tense, heart rate increases, and brain becomes more alert – your body also has a built-in, healthy relaxation response. When that’s triggered, the opposite happens: your breathing and heart rate slow down, and your blood pressure decreases.

Luckily, with practice, you can learn to trigger that response. Try these techniques on your own or find a teacher or class to help you get started. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the hang of it quickly. And if one approach doesn’t work for you, try something new. You can learn to de-stress in lots of other ways.

Meditation. One of the most studied approaches for managing stress, this involves developing your ability to stay focused on the present, instead of worrying about the past or future. Find a quiet location with as few distractions as possible. Get comfortable by either sitting, lying or walking. Focus your attention on a specific word or set of words, an object or your breathing. And let distractions, including thoughts, come and go without judgment.

Progressive muscle relaxation. To feel the effect, first tense your muscles for a few seconds, then relax them. Start by tensing and relaxing your toes, then your calves and on up to your face. Do one muscle group at a time.

Deep breathing. Take in a slow, deep breath, let your stomach or chest expand and then exhale slowly. Repeat a few times. Many people don’t breathe deeply, but it is relaxing and something you can do anytime, anywhere.

Guided imagery. This involves a series of steps that include relaxing and visualizing the details of a calm, peaceful setting, such as a garden.

Getting your mind and body to a place of calm doesn’t always mean being still, however. Other healthy ways to manage stress include taking a yoga or tai chi class, talking to a professional counselor, joining a stress management program or an art class, or meeting up with friends for a brisk walk. Being in nature can be very soothing for some people.

Combining de-stressors like these with other healthy habits can go a long way toward strengthening your heart. Eat more veggies, fruits and whole grains, and less sodium, sugar and saturated fats, for example. Move your body more – like through dancing and walking meetings. Find exercises you actually love and do them regularly. Get enough good, quality sleep. And develop a strong social support system. Then rethink some of the familiar ways you may be coping with stress, such as drinking alcohol frequently, using drugs and other substances, smoking or overeating. They can actually worsen your stress – and your health.

Taking care of your heart health is a lifelong journey, but at a time when the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 remains higher in people with poor cardiovascular health, learning new ways to make your heart strong has become even more important.

Learn how to stress less for a healthier heart and more about heart health from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute by visiting If you need help finding additional resources to help you cope with stress, talk to a healthcare provider. Seek urgent care if you can’t cope at all or have suicidal thoughts. Resources are also available at




National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Make Heart Health Part of Your Self-Care Routine

Devoting a little time every day to care for yourself can go a long way toward protecting the health of your heart. Simple self-care, such as taking a moment to de-stress, giving yourself time to move more, preparing healthier meals, and not cheating on sleep can all benefit your heart.

And that’s a good thing, because heart disease is largely preventable and focusing on improving your heart health has never been more important. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women and men in the United States, and many Americans remain at risk of getting it, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“Studies show self-care routines, such as taking a daily walk and keeping doctor’s appointments, help us keep our blood pressure in the healthy range and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke,” said David Goff, M.D., NHLBI’s director of cardiovascular sciences.

It may be easier than you think to “put your heart” into your daily routine. Each Sunday, look at your week’s schedule and carve out 30 minutes daily for heart-healthy practices. Take an online yoga class, prepare a heart-healthy recipe, schedule your bedtime to get at least seven hours of sleep, or make a medication checklist. Then seek out support from others, even if it’s online or via a phone call, to help you stick to your goals.

#OurHearts are healthier when we work together

#OurHearts are healthier when we work together

Here are few self-care tips to try every day to make your heart a priority:


Self-Care Sunday

Find a moment of serenity every Sunday. Spend some quality time on yourself.

Mindful Monday

Be mindful about your health and regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range. Being aware of your health status is a key to making positive change.

Tasty Tuesday

Choose how you want to approach eating healthier. Start small by pepping up your meals with a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute. Get adventurous and prepare a simple, new, heart-healthy recipe. Or go big by trying a different way of eating, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure. DASH is flexible and balanced, and it includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, nuts, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

Wellness Wednesday

Don’t waffle on your wellness. Move more, eat a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried, make a plan to quit smoking or vaping, or learn the signs of a heart attack or stroke. You could be having a heart attack if you have chest and upper body pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness. You might be having a stroke if you have numbness in the face, arm, or leg; confusion; trouble talking or seeing; dizziness; or a severe headache.

Treat Yourself Thursday

Treats can be healthy. Try making a dessert with fresh fruit and yogurt. Then stretch your imagination beyond food. Host a family dance party, take a few minutes to sit still and meditate, go for a long walk, or watch a funny show. Laughter is healthy. Whatever you do, find a way to spend some quality time on yourself.

Follow Friday

Follow inspiring people and pages on social media, or text a friend to help you stick to your self-care goals. Remember to take care of your mental health, too. Two of the main hurdles to self-care are depression and a lack of confidence, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. If your mental health gets between you and your fabulous self, take action to show your heart some love. Reach out to family and friends for support, or talk to a qualified mental health provider.

Selfie Saturday

Inspire others to take care of their own hearts. Talk about your self-care routine with loved ones or share a selfie on your social media platforms. Having social support and personal networks can make it easier to get regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods, reach a healthy weight, and quit smoking.

Learn more in this Self-Care Tips for Heart Health fact sheet and visit to learn more about heart health.

Celebrate American Heart Month: Join the #OurHearts Movement

February is American Heart Month!

Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is that we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we work on them with others. NHLBI launched the #OurHearts movement to inspire us to protect and strengthen our hearts with the support of others.

Here are some facts, how-to tips, and resources to inspire you to join with others, even if you can’t be physically together, to improve your heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Most middle-aged and young adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease.

Why Connecting is Good for Your Heart

Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight. Having people in our lives who motivate and care for us helps, as do feelings of closeness and companionship.

Follow these heart-healthy lifestyle tips to protect your heart. It will be easier and more successful if you work on them with others, including by texting or phone calls if needed.

  • Be more physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep.
  • Track your heart health stats.

You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go.

Move more

Invite family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your efforts to be more physically active:

  • Ask a colleague to walk “with you” on a regular basis, put the date on both your calendars, and text or call to make sure you both get out for a walk.
  • Get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class, such as a dance class. Make it a regular date!
  • Grab your kids, put on music, and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or dance in your living room or yard.

How much is enough? Aim for at least 2½ hours of physical activity each week—that’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises 2 days a week. Can’t carve out a lot of time in your day? Don’t chuck your goal, chunk it! Try doing 10 minutes of physical activity at least three times a day. NHLBI’s Move More fact sheet has ideas to get and keep you moving.

Aim for a healthy weight

Find someone in your friend group, at work, or in your family who also wants to reach or maintain a healthy weight. (If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss of 5–10 percent helps your health.) Check in with them regularly to stay motivated. Agree to do healthy activities, like walking or cooking a healthy meal, at the same time, even if you can’t be together. Share low-calorie, low-sodium recipes. Check out NHLBI’s Aim for a Healthy Weight web page.

Eat heart-healthy

We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. Follow NHLBI’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Research shows that, compared to a typical American diet, it lowers high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels. Find delicious recipes at NHLBI’s Heart-Healthy Eating web page.

Quit smoking

To help you quit, ask others for support or join an online support group. Research shows that people are much more likely to quit if their spouse, friend, or sibling does. Social support online can help you quit. All states have quit lines with trained counselors—call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You’ll find many free resources to help you quit, such as apps, a motivational text service, and a chat line at and

If you need extra motivation to quit, consider those around you: Breathing other people’s smoke, called secondhand smoke, is dangerous. Many adult nonsmokers die of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

Manage stress

Managing stress helps your heart health. Set goals with a friend or family member to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation, or participate in an online stress-management program together. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. Talk to a qualified mental health provider or someone else you trust.

Improve sleep

Sleeping 7–9 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as does getting a 30-minute daily dose of sunlight. Take a walk instead of a late afternoon nap! Family members and friends: remind each other to turn off the screen and stick to a regular bedtime. Instead of looking at your phone or the TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.

Track Your Heart Health Stats, Together

Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart-healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort. Check out NHLBI’s My Heart Health Tracker.

Visit #OurHearts for inspiration on what others around the country are doing together for their heart health. Then join the #OurHearts movement and let NHLBI know what you’re doing to have a healthy heart. Tag #OurHearts to share how you and your family and friends are being heart healthy. For more information about heart health, visit

2022 Oriol Foundation Scholarship Winners

Holden, MA – The Oriol Foundation is happy to announce the winners of their 2022 Eugene Oriol Memorial Scholarships to two local graduating seniors. The community scholarship winner is Reilly Laitala of Sterling, recent graduate of Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School. Reilly will be attending Norwich University to pursue her BS in nursing. The team scholarship winner is Colleen Duddy of Holden, recent graduate of Wachusett Regional High School. Colleen will be attending Endicott College to pursue a nursing degree. Colleen is a team member at Holden Rehab & Skilled Nursing Center.

The Oriol Foundation is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes including but not limited to enriching the lives of those who deliver this care; to promote wellness and stimulate innovations in health care so all may live more independently and safely wherever they call home in the Wachusett community. Each year, The Oriol Foundation offers two $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors pursuing healthcare education; one to a community member and one to an Oriol team member.

Pictured Left to Right

Susan Sullivan, Oriol Foundation Board Member; David Oriol, Oriol Foundation Officer; Colleen Duddy, Team Scholarship Winner; Reilly Laitala, Community Scholarship Winner; Nancy Nichols, Oriol Foundation Board Member; Nathan Oriol, Oriol Foundation President

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Oriol Promotions

Holden Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center, part of Oriol Health Care and the Oriol 360 Care Management Team, announces the promotion of Harry Quick, NHA to Administrator. Quick, of Worcester, began working for Oriol Health Care as a Resident Life Assistant at Holden Rehabilitation in 2016 and promoted to Resident Life Director in 2017. Quick’s continued enthusiasm and leadership skills led him to study as an AIT (Administrator-in-training) under the guidance of Tara D’Andrea, Holden’s then Administrator. Quick took on the role of Assistant Administrator in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and after rigorous testing and exams, he is now a licensed Nursing Home Administrator (NHA) and has moved into the position of Administrator of Holden Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Facility. Quick holds a bachelor’s degree from Johnson & Wales University where he graduated Cum Laude from the Counseling Psychology program in 2015. His interests include spending time with his wife and children, basketball, music, and movies.

Tara D’AndreaTara D’Andrea, MBA, NHA of Paxton, has moved into a new position  with Oriol Health Care as Director of Operations. In her new role, D’Andrea will be orchestrating the Oriol 360 concept while overseeing Holden Rehabilitation, Oriol Therapy Services and Oriol Home Health/Oriol At Home with the goal to strengthen and streamline Oriol’s coordination of integrated post-acute health care. D’Andrea will now be directing Oriol teams providing care within our nursing centers, in your homes, and in our outpatient therapy gym.

D’Andrea has been in the healthcare industry for over 25 years and has spent the last 17 years as a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, with the past 7 years being at Holden Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center. D’Andrea graduated from Worcester State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology minoring in Communication Disorders and received her MBA with a dual concentration in Management and Healthcare Management from Fitchburg State University in 2020.

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Oriol 360 Care Collaborative

Holden, MA – Oriol Health Care is expanding their continuum of care concept, known as “ORIOL 360”, to include a partnership with Integral Health Partners (IHP) of Worcester. Allison Hargreaves, MD, the Medical Director of Oriol’s Holden Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center, Oakdale Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center, and Oriol Home Health has recently joined the IHP group of veteran nurse practitioners after working closely with them throughout the pandemic at Holden Rehab. As a component of the Oriol 360 Care Team, Dr. Hargreaves and the IHP nurse practitioners will assist not only with inpatient care of patients and residents at Holden and Oakdale but will also be able to follow patients of Oriol Home Health out in the local community. This partnership has increased the satisfaction and recovery of patients as well as reduced the number of readmissions to hospitals.

ORIOL 360 is a unique care management program developed by the Oriol family and clinical team to encompass many aspects of health care; from community education, to rehabilitation, to inpatient therapies, to home health care and back to outpatient therapies, all-the-while having the same care team members. This full circle of care within the Oriol and IHP partnership is conducive to better healing and recovery success.

Oriol Health Care has been owned and operated by the Oriol family since 1964.

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Introducing Sheila Pawlak, LPN

Please join us in congratulating Sheila Pawlak, LPN for moving into our newly created position of Case Manager at Holden Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center. Sheila has been a dedicated nurse for Oriol for over 20 years and is a perfect fit for this integral position.

Osipov is Person of the Year

HOLDEN — The Holden Woman’s Club, a community service organization, recently named Debby Osipov as the recipient of its 2020 Person of the Year award.

Osipov is a lifelong resident of Holden, and is currently employed as the director of marketing and community relations at Oriol Health Care. She received her bachelor’s degree from Nichols College, and is working toward her MBA at Fitchburg State University.

“A motivated, selfless achiever, Debby is a fine example of how one person can have a beneficial impact on a whole community,” the HWC said in announcing Osipov’s selection.

Read the full story at The Landmark

No COVID-19 Cases at Oriol Health Care Facilities in Holden, West Boylston

There are 46 COVID-19 cases in Holden, a relatively low number given that Holden Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center is located there. Neither Holden Rehab nor Oakdale Rehabilitation in West Boylston, both owned and operated by Oriol Health Care, have any known or suspected COVID-19 cases. The town of West Boylston is reporting 26 cases.

“We are performing ongoing testing and have enlisted the National Guard to test all remaining residents and staff as an extra measure of precaution,” said Tara D’Andrea, administrator of Holden Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center.

Holden Rehabilitation, which D’Andrea said is the largest family-owned private employer in Holden, has 123 beds; Oakdale has 92. When the coronavirus pandemic hit the region in early March, D’Andrea said, proactive emergency preparedness and early implementation of strict processes at both facilities were put into place. Holden Rehab and Oakdale immediately halted all planned community programming and began restricting visitation.

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Good Deeds: Oriol Foundation of Holden Comes to Aid with Mask Force

HOLDEN — Debbie Osipov has been with the Oriol organization for two decades, currently serving as the director of marketing and community relations for Oriol Health Care and the program director for the Oriol Foundation.

And now it is her sewing skills that are being called upon to help save lives.

Ospiov, with the help of a half-dozen sewers and about a dozen people who have donated fabric, has launched what is being called the Mask Force, to assemble homemade masks in the wake of the shortage of N95 masks.

Read the full article in The Telegram