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Strong emotions can cause your body to make more adrenaline, a hormone that increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Tension causes small arteries in your body to contract (get smaller) and may temporarily raise your blood cholesterol levels.


There are eight risk factors you can control. Your health care team may ask you to focus on just one or two for now. You can make these decisions together.

Stress can be big, such as: death, divorce, marriage, job loss or change, financial problems, family illness, moving or having a baby.

Stress can be smaller, such as: standing in a long line at the grocery store with a fussy child, getting stuck in traffic or being bogged down at work while facing a deadline.

How you handle stress will have an affect on your body and emotional well-being. You can help manage stress by trying to reduce the causes. When you are under stress, you must take good care of yourself.

  • Eat well-balanced meals and healthful snacks. Drink plenty of water each day.
  • Do not smoke or chew smokeless tobacco.
  • Get plenty of rest each night. In the morning, you should feel relaxed and fresh.
  • Exercise three to five times each week. Go for a walk, bike ride, swim, join a dance class or do stretching exercises.
  • Focus your attention on something relaxing, not stressful.
  • Ask for help if you can't handle your work load or home duties. There's no shame in admitting you need help.
  • Don't worry about things you can't change.
  • Write down what causes you stress and how you handle each situation.
  • Avoid as much stress as you can. Try not to drive in rush hour traffic and avoid situations that make you feel anxious or emotionally drained.
  • Schedule things you enjoy.
  • Take a break. Sit back and take a few deep breaths.
  • Develop a positive attitude.
  • Do relaxation exercises.



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts