Stress & Heart Disease


How does stress impact your heart health? According to the American Heart Association, there is no direct link between stress and heart disease. However, stress, particularly constant (chronic) stress, can negatively affect your health and can cause issues relating to your heart.

Learn more about stress and heart disease below. 

Stress releases adrenaline, causing heart rate, blood pressure to rise

Stress sets off a chain of events. First, you have a stressful situation that’s usually upsetting but not harmful. The body reacts to it by releasing a hormone, adrenaline, which causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These physical reactions prepare you to deal with the situation by confronting it or by running away from it — the “fight or flight” response.

Chronic stress may damage the artery walls

When stress is constant (chronic), your body remains in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time. Chronic stress that causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure may damage the artery walls.

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, cause uncomfortable physical symptoms

Chronic stress does not cause high blood pressure. The exact causes of high blood pressure are unknown, but contributing factors include being overweight, eating too much sodium (salt), lack of physical activity and drinking too much alcohol. But chronic stress can take a physical toll on you. It can weaken your immune system and cause uncomfortable physical symptoms like headache and stomach problems.

Avoid feelings of anger, hostility that cause heart rate, blood pressure to rise

Since the early 1970s, doctors have used the term “Type A” personality or behavior to describe a person who is always in a hurry, impatient, often irritated, angry or hostile, and who strives for perfection. Recent studies show that the Type A traits linked to heart disease probably are anger and hostility. Why? When you are angry or hostile, your body releases stress hormones into your blood, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to go up temporarily, and making your heart work harder.

Learn to manage stress through relaxation, stress management techniques

Medicines are helpful for many things, but usually not for stress. Some people take tranquilizers to calm them down, but it’s far better to learn to manage your stress through relaxation or stress management techniques. Be careful not to confuse stress with anxiety. If you suffer from severe anxiety, speak with your doctor about whether you need medication.

Stress is just one of many factors that may be linked to heart disease. Take the Go Red Heart CheckUp to learn more about your heart health.

Learn more about your heart disease risk on Go Red.