A new study links stress with heart disease, but there are easy ways to stay healthy and protect your heart.


Stress is part of modern life but a new study shows that being stressed takes a serious, and lasting, toll on your health and increases your risk of heart disease.

The multi-year study published in the medical journal The Lancet is the first to pinpoint how stress affects the body. Stress apparently triggers the amygdala – the part of the brain keyed specifically to respond to stress – which then activates bone marrow and inflames the arteries.

This is a survival mechanism that would have been essential for the earliest humans as it prepares the body to deal with a harmful experience. Bone marrow produces the white blood cells necessary for tissue repair. Wider arteries increase blood flow.

However, today, the over-production of white blood cells can cause a build-up of plaque in the arteries and lead to heart disease.

The people in the study with higher amygdala activity had a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and developed problems sooner than those with lower activity.

“Eventually, chronic stress could be treated as an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is routinely screened for and effectively managed like other major cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes,” says study author and cardiologist Dr Ahmed Tawakol.

“So far, it appears that things like mindfulness and other stress-reduction approaches seem to really nicely tamp down on the amygdala, and they appear to even cause benefits in other areas of the brain.”

The other stress-reduction approaches are diet and exercise.

Regular exercise triggers feel-good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and endorphins. It also reduces the damage the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline cause.

Physical activity relieves tension and helps enrich your brain with oxygen and nutrients, which can improve cognitive functioning and leave you feeling energised and alert.

Exercise should be teamed with a healthy diet low in refined sugar, saturated fats, salt and alcohol, and high in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, lean meats and unprocessed foods.

As an added bonus, you may even lose weight.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author; they are not reflective or indicative of RI Advice Group’s position and are not to be attributed to RI Advice Group. They cannot be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of the author.


The information provided in this document, including any tax information, is general information only and does not constitute personal advice. It has been prepared without taking into account any of your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statements and seek personal advice from a qualified financial adviser. From time to time we may send you informative updates and details of the range of services we can provide. If you no longer want to receive this information please contact our office to opt out. RI Advice Group Pty Ltd ABN 23 001 774 125 AFSL 238429