Heart failure

Stress and heart failure

Although stress is not a direct risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the ways that people cope with stress may contribute to an increased risk of heart problems. For instance, some people cope through risky behaviours such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating, all of which increase the risk of heart disease. 

Some of those we talked to thought that stress had played an important part in the build-up to their heart problems. Others
felt it may have contributed but was perhaps not as important as smoking or having the 'wrong' genes. One man was of the opinion that stress was a 'modern word' used by those who wouldn't slow down.

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Many people were sure that stress had played a central role in the development of their heart problems and that over time it had weakened their heart. Some talked about feeling 'stressed' at work, about having too much responsibility and too much to do. Some said they had worked too hard physically for many years or that they had worked in a poor environment where there was dust and artificial light. Working anti-social hours and shift work were also thought to be stressful and therefore detrimental to health and well-being. Although smoking is known to be an important cause of heart disease, a man who had experienced business and financial difficulties felt that stress had been as much to blame for his heart problems as smoking.

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Life events such as divorce, separation and financial pressures can caused a lot of emotional stress and were mentioned as things that led to people’s health deteriorating. 
One man said that his heart attack had been triggered by both the shock of bereavement as well as financial troubles.

People defined stress in different ways; for instance one man said he relished the stress of his challenging job but that some of the hassle of everyday life such as running out of petrol or forgetting to collect his wife's dry cleaning could be stressful enough to bring on palpitations.

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People also talked about feeling extremely anxious about themselves and their illness, (see 'Bad days, anxiety and depression'). One man felt so anxious about being ill at night that he was reluctant to be alone. Someone else said that worrying about things beyond her control could 'eat away' at her.

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Last reviewed April 2016.
Last updated April 2016.



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