Stress & Heart Health

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

According to Dr Miranda Say, Clinical Neuropsychologist, many people are experiencing more stress and anxiety than usual in this current Covid-19 environment. With so many uncertainties and fears for the present and the future this isn’t surprising. Many people experienced anxiety moving into lockdown.  People may be experiencing different kinds of anxieties and worries moving out of lockdown, as things begin to slowly move towards normality.

Dr Say 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 increases 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:

How to reduce stress

The good news is that we can take some simple steps to reduce stress.

Two simple ways to help reduce stress are exercise and mindfulness.

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 mindfulness and some simple practices, click here.

To learn more about exercise including 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.