Latest News » Stress can undo the good that exercise does for your heart

Exercising regularly can help foster strong heart health, but stress could end up undermining those benefits.

As much as exercise can strengthen heart health, consistent bouts of stress can end up undoing those benefits and increase the risk of heart disease, no matter what your work out regimen may be.

A new study conducted by epidemiology professor Scott Montgomery, of Sweden's Orebro University, found that teens who exercised but also struggled with stress exhibited a 54 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 110 percent higher risk of dying from it. These findings, published in the online edition of Heart on March 4, evaluated nearly 238,000 men who had been born between 1952 and 1965 and were conscripted in the Swedish military. Over 10,500 of these men were found to have developed heart disease at some point between 1987 and 2010, with the researchers pointing to low stress resilience as a primary driving factor — one that was able to heighten these men's risks for heart problems despite their being physically fit.

While this research can't provide a definitive cause-and-effect link between stress and heart disease, it does raise the notion that stress-coping mechanisms should be taught in tandem with exercise regimens as a way for curtailing cardiovascular risks.

"We know from other studies that very stressful events can cause heart attacks. If you have a low stress resilience and something more serious happens, it can have injurious consequences to the heart," Montgomery said in an official statement. "Exercise is important. But maybe we have to think about exercise and physical fitness in the context of coping with stress, particularly with people who have had a heart attack."

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