Heart Attack And Stress

  • 1st Revision: Stanley Anthony Chidera [Linkedin]

Understanding heart attack and stress

Feeling stressed all the time could raise your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a new study.

The research, which is published in The Lancet, and has received widespread media coverage, claims to show for the first time how stress could be linked to heart and circulatory disease in humans. 

Constant stress has been linked to higher activity in an area of the brain linked to processing emotions, and an increased likelihood of developing heart and circulatory disease.¹

What is heart attack

Heart attack, also known as Myocardial infarction, is a function of reduced blood flow to the heart caused by factors such as blood clots blocking the arteries. This leads to death of some heart muscles due to reduced distribution of oxygen within the heart muscles.

What is stress

Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter challenges in life. When you’re under stress, your body reacts by releasing hormones that produce the “fight-or-flight” response. Your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure go up, your muscles tense, and you sweat more.²

The link: can stress cause heart attack?

The role of social and psychological factors in chronic disease specifically coronary heart disease has received widespread attention from medical and social professionals.³

It has been identified that stress is a risk factor for an increased blood pressure due to the effects of stress hormones on blood vessels(constriction). Increased blood pressure results in complications like coronary artery disease which is a cause for heart attack. 

With this, unhealthy social and psychological lifestyles can increase the chances of heart attack most especially in the older generation.

More on heart attack: symptoms and causes

Symptoms of heart attack

Although the symptoms of heart attack may vary from individual to individual, generally symptoms observed across all individuals include chest pain being the major. This pain usually lasts for few minutes or it goes away and comes back.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention 


  1. Feeling weak and lightheaded or faint
  2. Pain or discomfort radiating from the jaw, neck down to the back
  3. Shortness of breath  accompanied by chest discomfort

Causes of heart attack

Coronary artery disease (CAD) has been stated to be the major cause of heart attack. Another common cause is a severe spasm, or sudden contraction, of a coronary artery that can stop blood flow to the heart muscle.⁴

Coronary artery disease seems to have claimed more lives most importantly in the United Kingdom than any other condition and research shows that death of people under the age of 65 has it main cause by coronary heart disease.⁵

Between 1999 and 2010,  there has been a decrease in the percentage of adults with at least one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease from 57.8% in 1999- 2000 to 46.5% in 2009- 2010. The decrease in trend was mostly found among men and women within the age bracket of 40-59, and 60 and above.⁶

More on stress: symptoms, causes and management

Symptoms of stress

Symptoms of stress are experienced based on the triggers. Physical stress usually is accompanied by symptoms like headache, nausea diarrhoea, insomnia, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and weakness, while emotional stress comes with symptoms like anger, depression, low self-esteem, low energy, loss of interest, loneliness among others 

Causes of stress

The causes of stress vary from person to person as what one person sees as stress is no stress for another. It can arise as a result of internal or external factors, be it environment,  type of job, people around us or even memories.

How to manage stress

Stress is an inevitable part of our life, hence efforts should be made on balancing our daily lives with positive activities that help us with healthy living. 

Stress management can be achieved through engaging in pleasurable activities, social activities, healthy communication,  aerobic and anaerobic physical activities, enough sleep, maintaining good hygiene and likewise good diet.⁷


Stress has been recognised to be a risk factor for heart attack. With stress, the heart works more than necessary and hence increasing the chances of a heart attack. 


  1. How stress can lead to heart attacks and stroke. Heart magazine https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/behind-the-headlines/stress-and-heart-disease
  2. National centre for complementary and integrative health: stress; https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/stress
  3. House JS. Occupational stress and coronary heart disease: A review and theoretical integration. Journal of health and social behavior. 1974 Mar 1:12-27.
  4. Heart Attack Symptoms, Risk, and Recovery. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_attack.htm
  5. Common Data Set 1992. London: Department of Health/OPCS, 1994.
  6. Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H.; Te-Ching Chen, Ph.D.; and Xianfen Li, M.S: Prevalence of Uncontrolled Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease: United States, 1999–2010. NCHS Data Brief ■ No. 103 ■ August 2012
  7. Esch T, Stefano GB. The neurobiology of stress management. Neuroendocrinology letters. 2010 Jan 1;31(1):19-39.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818