Your body releases cortisol, a steroid hormone, in times of stress. While cortisol is important, too much can wreak havoc on your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels. In times of sudden stress, your body may release adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone. Blood vessels contract to speed blood flow to muscles, heart, and lungs, while air passages dilate to provide muscles with more oxygen. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels all increase, making you temporaril­y stronger. During an emergency, this can be lifesaving. But when the body regularly releases adrenaline when not in danger (such as for chronic stress), this can cause heart damage.

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