Extreme, chronic stress appears to increase risk for heart disease. More research is needed to determine why this is so, but according to the American Heart Association, the connection is likely because stress can affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.
“We know that stress increases your body’s stress hormone level – the same hormones associated with the fight or flight response. It’s a great reaction if a saber tooth tiger is chasing you, but those hormones can start attacking your heart if they’re too high for too long,” says Keyoor Patel, DO, of UHS Cardiology group.
To control stress, Dr. Patel likes to promote yoga, tai chi, or a brisk walk. And his suggestions come with added benefits, in that they increase physical activity, help burn calories to better control weight issues and if you’re a smoker, you can’t smoke in a yoga studio.