Stress & Coronary Disease: Give Your Heart a Break

Posted on January 2, 2011 by VITAL WorkLife

Updated March 15, 2021

When you're under stress, the toll isn't just on your nerves. Unmanaged stress can lead to high blood pressure, arterial damage, irregular heart rhythms and a weakened immune system. Recent research shows that people under chronic stress are at higher risk for heart disease:

  • In a study of 17,000 female health professionals, women whose work is highly stressful had a 40% increased risk of heart disease (including heart attacks and the need for coronary artery surgery) compared with their less-stressed colleagues.
  • According to the American Institute of Stress, the incidence of heart attacks and sudden death have been shown to increase significantly following the acute stress of natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Depression has been proven to be a such a risk factor in cardiac disease that the American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended that all cardiac patients be screened for depression.

The "fight or flight" response to stress has physical symptoms including spikes in blood pressure and elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. In addition, stress often causes behavioral and lifestyle changes, such as overeating, lack of exercise, and increased use of tobacco and alcohol.

While stress is often caused by factors outside your control—natural disasters, serious illnesses, unreasonable bosses or co-workers, loss of loved ones—you can limit the damage stress causes to your body by learning to manage it more effectively.

Managing Stress: Avoiding The Side Effects

If you have concerns about managing your stress, VITAL WorkLife Nurseline can help. Members call 866.220.3138—any time of the day or night—to speak to a registered nurse.

Hear More Stress Management — The Nurseline Audio Library

The Nurseline Audio Library has information on a wide variety of health and safety topics. To hear more about stress relief and management, call 866.220.3138 and push 2. When prompted, punch in:

  • Code 1964 for the audio file on Stress Relief and Relaxation
  • Code 1845 for the audio file on Stress Management

Pathways to Well Being Call VITAL WorkLife at 800.383.1908 or access resources through your VITAL WorkLife App. 

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