Can Stress Cause A Heart Attack? Are They Linked? |

Author: Dr. Satish Madiraju, a renowned cardiologist is passionate about consumer heart health and is on a mission to prevent a million heart attacks. He shares his expertise not only on heart health but also on leadership, digital health, and improving patient experience.

Key takeaways

  • Chronic stress can greatly increase the likelihood of experiencing heart attacks
  • Stress can lead to high blood pressure, increased heart rate, systemic inflammation, and unhealthy lifestyles that increase heart attack risk.
  • It’s crucial to recognize and manage chronic stress effectively to protect your heart health.

Stress is a part of life that we simply can’t avoid, but there are effective ways to cope with it.

This blog is all about raising awareness of how stress can impact your heart health. We’ll also share some tips on what you can do to manage stress and keep your heart healthy. 

Can Stress Cause a Heart Attack?

Understanding the stress curve

  • Acute stress is normal and healthy. Acute stress kicks in when you’re preparing for a job interview or trying to meet a tight deadline. It helps you to cope and adapt to stressful situations. 
  • However, long-standing stress or chronic stress is unhealthy. It is distressing for the body and can lead to problems like anxiety, depression, and serious health issues, including heart disease.

Stress curve

Causes and symptoms of chronic stress

Real-time evidence suggests stress can cause heart issues

In a large public hospital in South Africa, 96% of heart attack (HA) patients reported experiencing stress, and 40% reported severe stress. Also, the risk of a HA was 3 times higher for patients who experienced depression in the previous month compared to those without depression.

Can Stress Cause serious Heart Attack?.docx

Similarly mounting evidence from large international studies established that stress causes HAs.

Can Stress really Cause a Heart Attack?

Mechanism behind heart attack due to stress

Stress can cause heart

Can Stress Cause a Heart Attack?

Activation of the SNS 

  • Stress activates a particular centre in the brain known as the amygdala. This in turn activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
  • When activated, the SNS increases heart rate and blood pressure to ensure that organs and muscles receive adequate blood supply to deal with the ‘flight or fight’ response.
  • Chronic SNS activation due to chronic stress can lead to hypertension. This increases the risk of HA.

Release of stress hormones

  • During stress, the SNS stimulates the adrenal glands to release glucocorticoids, adrenaline, and cortisol.
  • High levels of these hormones over time can contribute to inflammation, increase heart rate and blood pressure can lead to long-term cardiovascular diseases. 
  • They also increase fat storage and insulin resistance, two key risk factors for HAs.

Promotes unhealthy behaviors

  • Chronic stress often leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as poor diet, smoking, and increased alcohol intake. These behaviors increase the risk of HAs.

Stress-induced effects on blood vessels

  • Chronic stress also impacts blood vessels and normal blood flow. 
  • It can make your blood more likely to clot.
  • Stress promotes inflammation in the arteries, which can lead to plaque buildup. 

Ways to deal with chronic stress

Sweat it out

  • Exercising like walking, jogging, dancing, or swimming, can help reduce stress levels by releasing endorphins, improving mood, and promoting better sleep.

Know your pack

  • Talking to someone about your stress can provide emotional support and practical solutions.
  • Lean on friends, family, or support groups. 

Don’t shy away from professional advice

  • Consulting with doctors or therapists can provide strategies to manage stress and address underlying health issues.
  • Seeking treatment for anxiety and depression can significantly reduce stress and improve quality of life.

Handle it like a pro

  • Implement strategies to manage work-related stress, such as prioritizing tasks, taking breaks, setting boundaries, and seeking support from colleagues or supervisors.

Embrace yoga and relaxation techniques

  • Engaging in yoga, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises can help calm the mind and reduce stress.

Never compromise on your sleep

  • Ensure you get enough 6-8 hours of high-quality sleep at night by maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a restful environment, and avoiding stimulants before bedtime.

 Choose peace

  • Identify and modify aspects of your life that contribute to constant stress. 
  • Focus on maintaining a positive attitude.
  • Recognize that some factors are beyond your control and learn to let go, focusing instead on what you can change.
  • Before taking on new commitments, assess whether you can manage them without adding undue stress. It’s okay to decline requests that will overwhelm you.

Utilize real-time stress monitoring

  • Advances in technology have led to wearable devices that can monitor stress indicators like heart rate variability in real time. 
  • These devices provide immediate feedback, helping users understand stress patterns and their impact on heart health, allowing for timely interventions.

Tips for stress management


Chronic stress significantly increases the risk of heart attacks, particularly among Indians. Recognizing and managing chronic stress through exercise, a strong support system, professional advice, and lifestyle changes are crucial for heart health. Embrace modern tools like real-time monitoring to track and reduce stress effectively.

Download the Aware Health Rewards app and become Aware to avoid heart attacks and strokes. Because your heart deserves it.

Can Stress Cause a Heart Attack? Understanding the risk

By Dr Satish Madiraju (MD, FACP, FACC, FSCAI, FSVM)


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  8. Vaccarino V, et al. Association of mental stress–induced myocardial ischemia with cardiovascular events in patients with coronary heart disease. JAMA. 2021;326(18):1818–1828. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.17649.
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