Breaking the Cycle: The Impact of Stress on Cardiovascular Disease in the UK

Poc Doc Stress CVD 1

Breaking the Cycle: The Impact of Stress on Cardiovascular Disease in the UK

Authored by: Dr Matthew Lee; BMSc, MBBS, MSc

Last reviewed: May 2024

What's in this PocDoc Article:

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and stress in the UK   

49% of adults in the UK experience feeling stressed five or more days each month. Often overlooked is that stress is a major trigger for CVD risk factors. In the UK alone, CVD affects over 7.6 million people. A study conducted by the University College London revealed that stress resulted in a 1.5-fold excess risk of developing cardiovascular disease.     


Signs you may be stressed 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, stress is “our bodies response to pressure”, which is often triggered by new or life-threatening situations.   

Signs of stress include: 

  • Feeling anxious 
  • Afraid 
  • Depressed 
  • Angry 
  • Sad 
  • Irritable 

Stress caused by not having easy access to your GP

  • Lack of access to medical assistance and resources for people with suspected health conditions can add unnecessary stress, which can negatively impact their physical health.
  • Additionally, there is added stress associated with the uncertainty of suspecting you could be unhealthy, not being able to access simple, easy testing and not knowing how to make improvements. 

How stress worsens cardiovascular disease risk factors  

The American Heart Association revealed individuals who are unable to cope with stress are more likely to use unhealthy habits to get through it such as “smoking, overeating and increased inactivity.”  These unhealthy habits lead to the development of cardiovascular disease.

Assessing how these behaviours affect your cardiovascular health is a good starting point for knowing your overall “Health Status,” leading to better peace of mind. Universal access to health screenings, including cardiovascular screenings such as the PocDoc Healthy Heart Check, can significantly reduce stress-related ill health.  


Red flags to be aware of when your stress levels increase – and what to do 

The following are some key behaviours that may indicate that your stress levels are higher than normal, along with steps that can improve your heart health and reduce your stress levels.



Alcohol consumption 

  • When you drink alcohol, the liver processes it and makes triglycerides and cholesterol, which raises the levels in your blood.  

Poor dietary choices  

  • In addition to dietary improvements, regular heart screenings are also a helpful tool in reducing stress, knowing your blood cholesterol levels are in check. 
Stress Blog Pictures

Increased Inactivity  


Healthy habits reduce stress levels and lower CVD risk

  • PocDoc believes that promoting mental well-being, healthy lifestyle changes, and creating supportive environments can significantly reduce the unhealthy habits that lead to cardiovascular disease.  
  • Individual self-care, including regular health screenings, is the key to detecting and treating potential health issues. The PocDoc Healthy Heart Check provides comprehensive results for your full cholesterol profile, heart health age, and 10-year risk of developing a heart attack.  
  • Regular heart health checks can increase your awareness of CVD, leading to better lifestyle choices and peace of mind by knowing your heart health status. Self-tests with PocDoc, along with stress management, will lead to breaking the cycle and preventing cardiovascular disease.  

What can you do to lower your stress about cardiovascular disease?

1. Give yourself a quick and easy Health MOT to check your cardiovascular health as quickly and efficiently as you can. This will avoid creating even more stress.

  • For instance, the need to take time off work for a doctor’s appointment can add to your mental stress. However, with PocDoc's Healthy Heart Check, you can assess your cardiovascular health in just 10 minutes from the comfort of your own home. (available HERE)

2. Empower yourself by reading and interpreting your health results. Follow the evidence-based advice and actionable steps throughout this blog to control and reduce your stress levels. (Read our blog on interpreting your lipid results here)

3. Check your behaviour against the red flags listed here. Remember that these red flags are usually coping mechanisms used to help you reduce stress, but they actually make it worse and increase the risk of CVD.  

4. Access relevant clinical advice and guidance if you notice something out of character. No one knows your body as well as you do.

Download PocDoc's stress and CVD booklet here

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