Stress & Heart Health

Among other things, stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on our heart health.

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from a negative situation or demanding circumstances.  It can have a major influence upon mood, our sense of well-being, behaviour, and health.

Dr Miranda Say, clinical neuropsychologist,  states that heightened stress, especially when it’s prolonged, can have a detrimental impact on the health of our hearts. When a person is stressed, their body releases adrenaline, which in turn can increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Over a long period of time, this can increase the risk of heart disease. In addition to this, stress tends to increase behaviours that increase heart disease risk, such as smoking, physical inactivity, increased consumption of alcohol and overeating. 


Common symptoms of stress

Common symptoms of stress include increased irritability, losing your temper at family members, difficulty sleeping, struggling to concentrate, loss of appetite, or more obvious symptoms, such as panic attacks.  Below are some further symptoms of stress with further links of explanation from Health Direct.


The symptoms of stress and changes with your body that you may notice include:


The symptoms of stress affecting your mind, thoughts and feelings include:

  • anxiety, worry
  • anger, irritability
  • depression or sadness
  • feeling overwhelmed and out of control
  • feeling restless
  • feeling moody, tearful
  • difficulty concentrating
  • low self-esteem, lack of confidence


The symptoms of stress that impact your behaviour include:

Heart disease is stressful

It’s important to remember that heart disease is stressful.  Going to hospital, facing surgery and dealing with the changes in your daily life and family routine – can be traumatic. For some people, the diagnosis of a heart condition or living with ongoing health problems may be a continual strain. Managing stress and knowing when to pull back or ask for help is an important element in coping with heart disease.  If you are struggling emotionally with your diagnosis or change in life situation talk to your GP, specialist or reach out to Lifeline.

How to reduce stress

The good news is that we can take some simple steps to reduce stress involving exercise, diet and mindfulness.

Our Heart Health Club nutritionist, Chloe Steele, has written a wonderful article for us on stress, diet and heart health which you can read here.

Two recent research projects showed that mindfulness may have the potential to improve both blood pressure and heart health in many people (1,2). To learn more about some simple practices, that can help, click here.

If you’d like to a gentle walking programme to get you started, click here.

(1) Rådmark, L., Sidorchuk, A., Osika, W. & Niemi M. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on heart rate variability and inflammatory markers. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(10). Doi: 10.3390/jcm8101638. 

(2) Intarakamhang, U., Macaskill, A. & Prasittichok, P. (2020). Mindfulness interventions reduce blood pressure in patients with non-communicable diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Heliyon, 6(4). doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e03834.