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Reduce your stress

Although stress can sometimes be a good thing, too much stress can actually harm your health and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Here are some effective stress-busting tips.

Types of stressors

Many life events such as moving, leaving school, changing jobs, and experiencing losses can cause stress. Daily hassles, such as being stuck in traffic, deadlines or conflicts can also be stress-provoking. It's important to identify your stressors so you can learn to deal with them effectively.

Symptoms of excess stress

If you are suffering from high stress levels, you may feel tense or anxious, have headaches, stomach complaints or even symptoms that mimic illnesses. Long-term exposure to stress can also lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Heart disease, stroke and stress

The relationship between stress and heart disease and stroke isn't completely clear. However, some people with high levels of stress or prolonged stress may have higher blood cholesterol, increased blood pressure or be more prone to developing atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).

If your life is stressful, it can be difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle. Instead of being physically active to relieve stress, you may respond by overeating, eating unhealthy foods, consuming too much alcohol or smoking – reactions that can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

Responding to stress with anger can also be harmful, since it sets off a series of physiological changes including increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure levels that can increase your chance of having a heart attack. People who are prone to anger are also more likely to turn to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and overeating.

Stress-busting tips

  • Identify the source of your stress. Figure out what is really bothering you – it's the first step in managing your stress.
  • Be physically active. It can be a great stress-buster and can boost your heart health, too. Be sure to talk to your physician before starting any activity program.
  • Share your feelings. Talking to friends, family or co-workers can help you feel better.
  • Take time for yourself. In trying to meet everyone else's needs, don't short-change yourself. 
  • Make time to laugh. It's your body's natural stress-release mechanism.
  • Eat well. Don't skip meals because hunger can leave you vulnerable to stress.
  • Take your vacations. Getting away from it all is important to your mental and physical health.

For more information on stress, please read our brochure Coping with Stress.

Last reviewed August 2013
Last modified: July 2014