Ask an Expert: How Does Stress Impact Heart Disease Risk?

This article is part of Health Divide: Heart Disease Risk Factors, a destination in our Health Divide series.

Ask an expert headshot of Dr. Shepherd

Xiaoyu Liu / Verywell

Meet the Expert

Jessica Shepherd MD, MBA, FACOG is a board-certified OB-GYN and the Chief Medical Officer for Verywell Health. She is the founder and CEO of Sanctum Med + Wellness, a wellness concierge practice, and is affiliated with Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

Verywell Health: How does stress impact heart disease risk?

Dr. Shepherd: Stress plays a big part in any disease state involving inflammation. Therefore, stress is a big risk factor for a number of health conditions, including heart disease.

Many environmental factors can influence stress levels, including: 

  • Access to health care
  • Quality of health care
  • Poverty or financial insecurity
  • Food access

Access to quality food can be a big stressor, especially in certain communities that just don't have access or financial means to purchase high-quality food. This creates even more barriers to living heart-healthy.

What we’ve seen in studies is that over time, even spanning back to slavery, disparities exist in certain minority communities. These disparities cause stress, which can lead to inflammation and heart disease. That disease then becomes a genetic risk factor over time. That’s how stress can play a particularly large role in the likelihood of a disease state in people of color.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Esenwa C, Ilunga Tshiswaka D, Gebregziabher M, Ovbiagele B. Historical slavery and modern-day stroke mortality in the united states stroke belt. Stroke. 2018;49(2):465-469. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.020169

  3. Kramer MR, Black NC, Matthews SA, James SA. The legacy of slavery and contemporary declines in heart disease mortality in the U.S. South. SSM - Population Health. 2017;3:609-617. doi:10.1016/j.ssmph.2017.07.004