Stress is a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. Reducing stress will reduce your risk of these diseases. Stress causes your body to release several hormones including epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol (a steroid). Increased levels of adrenaline lead to an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and can cause constriction of blood vessels. Increased cortisol levels can lead to increased blood sugar levels and weight gain. High levels of cortisol in the blood is one of the main markers of stress. Stress can also lead to an increased release of inflammatory chemicals in our bodies. Inflammation leads to damage in many areas of your body including the blood vessels. High levels of inflammation are directly correlated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. There are many ways to combat stress. Exercise is one of the best. Exercise reduces inflammation. It also helps rid the body of the dangerous chemicals produced in the body due to stress including cortisol. Going out for an extended walk is a great stress reliever. Listening to music can lower stress levels. Stress management classes can help. Check your local university, hospital, or wellness center. Learn to meditate to relieve stress. Even five minutes of meditation a day can help lower stress levels. Deep breathing exercises can help relive stress and can be done anywhere. Visualization techniques are another option. Getting a massage can relive the body of stresses effects. If stress is severe, consider getting professional help. Remember, stress is not benign. It has a wide range of negative effects on your body which build up over time. Take action today to reduce your stress levels and decrease its effects on your body.