Researchers have long suspected that the stressed-out, type A personality has a higher risk of high blood presure and heartproblems. We don’t know why, exactly. Stress can directly increase heart rate and blood flow, and causes the release of triglycerides into the blood stream. It’s also possible that stress is related to other problems — an increased likelihood of smoking or obesity — that indirectly increase the heart risks.
Doctors do know that sudden emotional stress can be a trigger for serious cardiac problems, including heart attack. People who have chronic heart problems need to avoid acute stress — and learn how to successfully manage life’s unavoidable stresses — as much as they can.
Many studies have shown that stress can worsen asthma. Some evidence suggests that a parent’s chronic stress might even increase the risk of developing asthma in their children. One study looked at how parental stress affected the asthma rates of young children who were also exposed to air pollution or whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. The kids with stressed out parents had a substantially higher risk of developing asthma.
Excess fat in the belly seems to pose greater health risks than fat on the legs or hips — and unfortunately, that’s just where people with high stress seem to store it. “Stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol,” says Winner, “and that seems to increase the amount of fat that’s deposited in the abdomen.”
Stress can worsen diabetes in two ways. First, it increases the likelihood of bad behaviors, such as unhealthy eating and excessive drinking. Second, stress seems to raise the glucose levels of people with type2 diabetes directly.