Top 10 Ways to Avoid a Heart Attack

Heart Tip 5: Chill Out

This stressed-out businessman seems primed for a heart attack.
This stressed-out businessman seems primed for a heart attack.
Howard Kingsnorth/Getty Images

Everyone knows that being stressed out isn't a good feeling. Turns out, it goes a little deeper than that -- stress can actually have some pretty severe effects on your body. Research scientists in Canada performed a study and found that people who had heart attacks and returned to a stressful career were twice as likely to have a second attack as those who held down reasonably stress-free jobs [source: Time Magazine]. University of London researchers found similar results for people who had stressful intimate relationships.

There's an area at the base of your brain called the hypothalamus that sets off an alarm whenever you get stressed. This alarm sends a signal to your adrenal glands to release a surge of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. This is also known as the fight-or-flight response. Your heart rate increases, which elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. If you're always stressed, then your body thinks it's in a constant state of threat -- not a good thing. Reducing your stress levels will lead to a reduced heart rate and ultimately help you to lower your blood pressure.

If you lead a stressful life, try to chill out by relaxing with friends after work. Take a walk or give meditation a try. Exercise and the right amount of sleep also go a long way toward combating your stress level. If none of these tricks work and you still find yourself stressed, see a professional counselor or psychotherapist. It can help your head and your heart.