November 10, 2020

The Effects of Stress on the Heart

How Does Stress Affect Your Heart?

How does stress affect your heart? Stress is a condition in which your body reacts to a “threatening” situation and prepares to deal with it. Sometimes called the “fight or flight” response, it produces a series of events kicked off by the release of adrenaline. This hormone increases your heart rate, quickens your breathing and raises your blood pressure. Stress is a natural short-term reaction. However, when it happens too often or is maintained for too long, it can be harmful to the body.

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In particular, there can be negative effects of stress on the heart. Specifically, how can stress affect your heart? Chronic stress can make you more likely to have high blood pressure, chest pain, heart disease, and irregular heartbeats. Consequently, it’s important to learn about stress and your heart.

Symptoms of Stress on Your Heart

What’s the link between stress and cardiovascular health? Both severe short-term stress and chronic or long-term stress can have a negative impact on the heart. This can include:

Increased Heart Rate

A common connection between stress and heart rate is that a stressful situation can cause the heart to race, which is an uncomfortable feeling that can cause even more stress.

Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations are abnormal fluttering or pounding sensations in the chest. They’re generally harmless, but something you should talk with your doctor about if they’re frequent or persistent.

Shortness of Breath

Severe stress may make it temporarily difficult to breathe. If this feeling is especially intense or happens often, you should ask your doctor about it.

Broken Heart Syndrome

People sometimes ask, “Can stress cause heart attacks and strokes?”. While it’s rare, a traumatic event like learning of the death of a loved one can trigger a heart attack. Doctors refer to this as broken heart syndrome.

What You Can Do to Avoid Heart Stress

Can stress cause heart problems? Yes, it can be a factor if you allow it to be. However, while you can’t necessarily prevent stressful situations from occurring, there are steps you can take to manage your stress and its effect on your heart. For example, you can:

Exercise Regularly

Not only does regular exercise cause your body to release mood-boosting endorphins, it can also help strengthen your heart muscle and lower your blood pressure.

Meditate, Pray or Practice Yoga

These activities help you develop an inward focus you can use to avoid dwelling on external circumstances that tend to cause you stress.

Practice Positive Thinking

In every situation, you have the choice of focusing on the negative aspects or finding something positive to direct your attention to. People who commit to positive thinking have less stress. In fact, laughter may actually lower the levels of stress hormones in your body.


Incoming emails, app notifications and even watching the news can be stressful. Taking some time away from those stimuli each day can be very calming.

Use Other Techniques

Reading a good book, watching an uplifting movie or taking a warm bath are other activities that many people find helpful in reducing their stress.

Learn More About Your Heart Health

Have you ever wondered how healthy your heart is? This quick heart health risk assessment can compare your actual age to your heart’s biological age, as well as calculate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Learn More.