Recent major advances in medical science have introduced a wide variety of treatments against atherosclerosis-based cardiovascular diseases, which has led to a significant reduction in mortality associated with these diseases. However, atherosclerosis-based cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death. Furthermore, progress in medical science has demonstrated the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease to be complicated, with a wide variety of underlying factors. Among these factors, stress is thought to be pivotal. Several types of stress are involved in the development of cardiovascular disease, including oxidative stress, mental stress, hemodynamic stress and social stress. Accumulating evidence indicates that traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis, including diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension and smoking, induce oxidative stress in the vasculature. Oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of endothelial dysfunction, atherogenesis, hypertension and remodeling of blood vessels. Meanwhile, mental stress is a well-known major contributor to the development of cardiovascular disease. The cardiovascular system is constantly exposed to hemodynamic stress by the blood flow and/or pulsation, and hemodynamic stress exerts profound effects on the biology of vascular cells and cardiomyocytes. In addition, social stress, such as that due to a lack of social support, poverty or living alone, has a negative impact on the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, there are interactions between mental, oxidative and hemodynamic stress. The production of reactive oxygen species is increased under high levels of mental stress in close association with oxidative stress. These stress responses and their interactions play central roles in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis-based cardiovascular disease. Accordingly, the pathophysiological and clinical implications of stress are discussed in this article.