Stress in cardiovascular diseases

Med Sci Monit. 2002 May;8(5):RA93-RA101.


Objective: Evidence for a connection between stress and selected cardiovascular diseases is analyzed. Does stress cause or exacerbate cardiovascular diseases?

Method: The stress phenomenon is illustrated and the impact of stress on the circulatory system is examined. In particular, the pathophysiological significance of stress in hypertension, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction (and others) is described.

Results: Stress plays a major role in various (patho)physiological processes associated with the circulatory system. Thereby, it potentially has ameliorating or detrimental capacities. However, with regard to cardiovascular diseases, stress most often is related to deleterious results. The specific outcome depends on multiple variables (amount of stress, duration of its influence, patient's history/predisposition, genetic components -- as they all may alter functions of the basic stress response components: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathoadrenal medullary system).

Conclusions: Stress has a major impact upon the circulatory system. It plays a significant role in susceptibility, progress, and outcome of cardiovascular diseases. Subjective or individual differences have also to be taken into account. Stress, especially 'adequate' acute stress - stress that is not 'overwhelming' - may improve performance and thus be beneficial in certain cases. The close relationship between stress and cardiovascular diseases may represent an important aspect of modern medicine. New therapeutic strategies have to be set in place.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / complications
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Myocardial Infarction / complications
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Time Factors