How Does Stress Contribute to Heart Disease?

How Does Stress Affect the Heart

In today’s busy life, stress has become a common issue for the majority of the population around the world. Constant ‘hustling’, work pressure, and not getting enough rest are common causes of stress.

Moreover, our unhealthy lifestyle and diet contribute to feelings of uneasiness and cause several health-related problems. It is vital to recognize the stress signals that our body sends us so that we can deal with them before it’s too late.

Stress can cause sweating, palpitations, uneasiness in breathing, irregular appetite, loss of sleep, etc. As a result, our body also releases some chemicals to help us deal with stressful situations.

Our body’s response to stress is supposed to protect us. However, constantly feeling stressed or anxious can lead to harmful effects on your physical and psychological health.

Elevated stress levels can have a fatal effect on our physical health. It can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, fatigue, and pain in muscles or joints. Stress is also a cause of heart attack.

You must be wondering, how does stress affect the heart? Can stress cause a stroke or heart attack? Unfortunately, it can. Various studies worldwide have examined how stress contributes to heart disease and other circulatory and physical health issues.

Constant stress can contribute to heart disease in the following ways:

  • When we are stressed, our mind sends signals to the bone marrow to release more white blood cells to deal with stress. This excess release of white blood cells can cause inflammation in arteries, further leading to heart disease. 

  • Constant stress can also affect our appetite. Either an individual will start overeating or stop eating altogether. Both affect our overall health. Moreover, overeating leads to obesity that adversely affects our heart. 

  • When we are stressed, our body releases the chemical cortisol. This chemical equips us to deal with stressful situations and prepares us for fight-or-flight situations. However, long-term stress can lead to increased levels of cortisol in our bodies, which is harmful. 

  • Feelings of stress and anxiety tend to stiffen our muscles, which leads to poor blood flow to the heart. In such conditions, the heart doesn’t receive enough oxygen and blood. 

  • When we are stressed, we tend to start smoking or drinking. It is well-known how smoking and excess drinking leads to heart diseases. 

  • When we are stressed or anxious, it becomes difficult to breathe properly. This symptom is known as short breathing. Due to this, our heart does not receive enough oxygen. This makes the heart exert itself more to meet the needs of our body, which is harmful to the health of the heart. 

  • Long-term stress can affect how the blood clots. It makes the blood stickier and increases the risk of strokes. Thicker and stickier blood tends to block arteries and leads to poor flow of blood. 

  • When we are stressed or in a highly stressful situation, we might experience panic attacks. During such moments, our heart starts to beat very fast, giving rise to what is called palpitations. Continuous or frequent palpitations can damage our heart muscles and strength. 

  • Regular stress also increases the bad cholesterol levels in our body. It directly affects the blood flow in the arteries and to the heart. 

  • Stress can also lead to indigestion which causes gas and acidity in our stomach. Indigestion is also the cause of most gastric and abdominal diseases, as an upset stomach can cause many health-related problems.


It is okay if we occasionally feel stressed due to deadlines or work pressure. But, if someone is constantly stressed for some reason, it could be a red flag regarding their overall health and well-being.

Thus, it is essential to manage stress. Here are some quick tips on how you can achieve this:

  • Regular exercise can help you improve your overall health, manage anxiety, and thus, help you manage stress.

  • A balanced healthy diet and the right nutrition will keep you healthy and active. 

  • Reducing alcohol consumption helps in managing adverse effects of stress and staving off substance dependency.

  • Going for a walk in an open area when feeling stressed may offer you some temporary respite.

  • Deep breathing exercises can help to reset your breathing rate and ease palpitations during panic attacks.


These are some ways to manage your stress levels and reduce the risk of any further damage to your health. Going out and meeting your friends and family and opening up about your underlying issues helps tremendously in managing stress.

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