According to the American Institute of Stress, stressful life change events—being appointed CEO, for example—has been linked to higher rates of heart attacks. Other causes include having a type A personality and emotions such as depression, anxiety, hostility, anger.
“Stress will make your cholesterol go up,” Stephen Kopecky, a preventive cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told The Wall Street Journal. “Without a doubt, that has been underrecognized.” Understanding the effect of stress on cholesterol is becoming more important as CEOs’ lives increasingly are crammed with obligations, and digital technology makes switching off harder than ever, cardiologists say.
Of most concern is chronic stress, which taxes the body over time, rather than episodes of short-term stress resulting from surprises or temporary difficulties, cardiologists say. Chronic stress can lead to higher cholesterol in several ways. People may stop exercising, or add more unhealthy foods to their diet. Stress also stimulates the release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, part of a “fight or flight” mechanism the body adopts to protect itself. Those hormones in turn stimulate the release of triglycerides and free fatty acids, which over time can boost LDL cholesterol, the Journal reported.
Read more: 7 Secrets to Reducing Leadership Stress
How’s your stress level? Take a test to find out.
Here are six medical screenings you can do at home.