Is stress as harmful as smoking?

By: Jennifer Pretty Jan 08, 2013
stress as bad as smoking

Somewhere in that blissfully hazy place between awake and asleep you made the fateful decision to gently tap the snooze button and keep tapping it until that annoying alarm racket went away. The dream may have been too good to give up or the bed too warm and comfy. Perhaps you were just plain tired. No matter the reason, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now you’re awake and in panic mode. You’ve slept in and have little or no time to get to work and the kids off to school. Your heart is racing, your blood pressure has spiked and every muscle in your body is tense. You feel overwhelmed and a sense of dread. As you fly around the house trying to get everyone and everything moving in the right direction, you find it difficult to organize your thoughts. You may even feel nauseated and start to sweat. All of these reactions are physical symptoms caused by stress. And, because of these reactions, you’ve just raised your chances of having a heart attack by another notch.

Healthcare professionals have known for years that people who are under a great deal of stress have an increased risk of heart disease. According to a recent collection of six studies, your body’s physical reaction to stress is the same as if you were to smoke five cigarettes a day. Putting this information into perspective, smoking five cigarettes a day can raise your risk of a cardiac episode by 27%. Chronic stress also suppresses the immune system, the body's natural defense against infection. This, in turn, leaves us more prone to illness and some forms of cancer. None of this is pleasant news especially as stress is so deeply ingrained in our daily lives and is nearly impossible to avoid.

The good news is that as inevitable as stress is you can learn how to cope with it. Scores of people find that meditation is an excellent way to relieve the stressors of everyday life. Relax, breathe deeply and visualize a pleasing image. Meditate. Practice yoga. Both techniques will lower your heart rate and blood pressure while easing muscle tension. Make time for things you enjoy. Taking up a hobby or engaging in an activity you really enjoy can decrease stress levels dramatically. Exercising will also take your mind off of stress. It causes the release of endorphins in the brain which provide feelings of calmness and general well-being.

What is stressful for you may not be stressful for the next person and not all stress is bad. There are actually times when stress is helpful. It can push you to meet a deadline or get important tasks accomplished. But long-term stress is not good and can increase the risk of heart disease among other ailments. Don’t let stress hijack your life!


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!


Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!