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. So, whether you're dealing with stress, good (for example weddings) or bad (for example the loss of a loved one), we can all benefit from learning effective stress-busting techniques.
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, but 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 full of stress, it can be difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle. Instead of being physically active to relieve stress, some people 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. And, people who are prone to anger are also more likely to turn to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and overeating.
Last reviewed: August 2008.