Stress- real or imagined– could be playing a significant role in the development of heart disease, say doctors in a recently published study.

According to the European Heart Journal, published by the European Society of Cardiology, stressing about life events both within and beyond our control can negatively impact health by increasing the chances of myocardial infarction (MI).
The study looked at 7,268 men and women over a period of 18 years, and questioned the subjects on how much of an impact they thought stress had on their health.

“Stress is experienced when a person feels that ‘environmental demands tax or exceed his or her adaptive capacity, resulting in psychological and biological changes that may place him or her at risk for disease,’” said the report.

“Participants who reported at baseline that stress has affected their health ‘a lot or extremely’ had a 2.12 times higher risk of coronary death or incident non-fatal MI when compared with those who reported no effect of stress on their health.”

Of the more than 7,200 people included, “there were 352 coronary deaths or first non-fatal MI events.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts heart disease as the number one killer of Americans, claiming at least 600,000 lives- or one in four deaths- every year. Coronary heart disease, or COH, accounts for 385,000 of those deaths as the most widespread heart-related illness.

Statistics published by the CDC show that heart disease was the root cause of 24.5 percent of African American deaths in 2008.

“Stress can be harmful to us if we don’t handle it appropriately,” said Davida I. Arnold, a licensed life coach and counselor in the Baltimore area. “I tell my clients that we can control our responses to stressful situations- I call it ‘ABCD.’”

Arnold told the AFRO the first step to cutting down stress is to “Avoid” stressful circumstances when possible, and recognize when a situation can and cannot be side-stepped.

She also encourages those dealing with stress to “Be gentle” with their mind, body, and soul. Smoking, sedentary lifestyles, and carelessness about what foods are put into the body can contribute to developing COH.

“Sometimes we need to just take the pressure off ourselves, stop beating up ourselves for situations or mistakes that we’ve made,” said Arnold. “ ‘C’ is for choosing wisely- we can choose how we respond to things even though we may not be able to control situations or what happens to us.”

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice-the way that I say it.”

Arnold said the “D” is for designing a plan for stress before it arrives when possible.

“Exercise, music, breathing -whatever it is- if you plan for stress and know in advance what your tools are- you have a toolbox that is ready for you.”

For more information about life coaching visit


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer