Stress and Cardiovascular Heart Disease British Heart Foundation BHF

Stress is not a direct risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases, but it's possible that it may contribute to your risk level. It all depends on your coping mechanisms.

Some people cope with stress with risky behaviour – such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating.

All of these increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

How does stress affect the heart?

There is no evidence to suggest that stress causes coronary heart disease or heart attacks.

But if you have coronary heart disease and experience feelings of anxiety or are under lots of stress, it may bring on symptoms like angina.

What you can do to manage stress

Changing your lifestyle in a positive way can help you feel better able to cope with some of the demands put on you. A balanced diet and regular physical activity will help you cope with stress.

If you often feel stressed or anxious, it's important to find tools to help you to relax.

Some people find that physical activity, yoga or other relaxation techniques can help. You could make a list of things that help you to relax and schedule one every day.

It might help you to identify situations that make you feel stressed at home or at work and try to avoid them if you can.

You could also learn techniques for managing stress. If you think you are stressed or very anxious, talk to your GP who will be able to help you decide on the best way to deal with it.

Want to find out more?

Understanding stress publication cover

This short leaflet explains the link between stress and unhealthy habits that can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases. It also gives you tips to help you lower your stress levels to keep your body and mind healthy. 



Where can I find support?

I know now that you can still have a positive life - you just have to know where to go for support

Whether you need practical advice, a sympathetic ear or a chance to take a break, there are plenty of organisations ready to give you that support:

  • Our booklet Caring for someone with a heart condition contains practical information, such as financial help you may be entitled to and the emotional aspects of being a carer and how to cope if things get difficult. It also includes details of organisations that are able to provide carers with support.
  • Our affiliated Heart Support Groups are one of the best places for both heart patients and their carers to get help and support. Set up by patients and carers, they do a tremendous job in bringing fun and friendship into peoples lives after the traumatic experience of a heart incident or diagnosis.
  • Joining our Online Community will give you an opportunity to share your experiences, stories, tips and ideas with other people like you.
  • Our Heart Helpline cardiac nurses and heart health advisors are here to provide you with information and support on anything heart related - call 0300 330 3311.
  • Organisations like the British Cardiac Patients Association can help you get in touch with people with the same experiences as you.