Stress & Cholesterol Levels


Your heart disease risk increases as your total or bad cholesterol levels rise or your good cholesterol level falls. “Controlling Cholesterol” and “The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure” report that stress harms cholesterol. You don’t have to make lifestyle changes if you’re a 40- to 59-year-old man with a cholesterol level below 210mg/dL, a good cholesterol level above 52 and a bad cholesterol level below 141 or a middle-age woman with total, good and bad cholesterol levels below 210, above 69 and below 29 respectively, according to “Controlling Cholesterol.”

Important Events

Medical researchers learned in the 1960s that important stressful events affect cholesterol, “Controlling Cholesterol” reported. Total cholesterol levels in patients just before they had medical operations soared 39 percent to 57 percent regardless of their age, according to a study published in the February 1967 issue of the journal Surgery. In a second study, total cholesterol levels in 200 married men who lost their jobs also increased but fell when they got new jobs, according to the Nov. 11, 1968 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

High-Stress Tasks

High-stress tasks increases cholesterol levels. Bad cholesterol (LDL) levels rose 5 percent among 127 male and female pilots with an average age of 41 who were about to take an important certification test and were asked to perform high-stress tasks in the laboratory, according to study conducted by Ohio State University’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. In a second study, accountants’ total cholesterol levels were “significantly higher before the April 15 tax deadline than a few weeks after,” according to “The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure.”

Students’ Tests

Students’ total cholesterol rises under stress, “Controlling Cholesterol” reported. The cholesterol levels among female medical students rose 20 percent on the day they took an important test, according to a study published in 1984 by the journal Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology. In a second study, cholesterol during the final two weeks of a Navy underwater demolition course rose significantly in 24 students who failed the final test but did not change in the 27 students who passed, according to the August 1976 issue of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine.


In “The Stress Connection,” a chapter in “Controlling Cholesterol,” renowned heart expert Dr. Kenneth Cooper reports that “solid, supportive relationships” reduce stress and high cholesterol levels caused by stress. He wrote that a study of 256 elderly adults conducted by the University of New Mexico School of Medicine proved that people who had friends they confided in and trusted had lower cholesterol levels than peers who didn’t.

Expert Advice

Visualization is a key way to reduce stress and the cholesterol caused by stress, according to “Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease.” Ornish recommends regularly closing your eyes and thinking about positive events. He also touts stretching your muscles to relax your body because “your body affects your mind,” and deep breathing for a few minutes each day.

About this Author

Martin Zabell has had several thousand articles printed by the “Chicago Tribune,” “USA Today,” and many other publications since 1983. He\’s covered business, real estate, government, features, sports and more. A Lafayette, Pa., college graduate, he\’s also written for several Fortune 500 corporate publications and produced business newsletters.