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Your Body: Managing stress may reduce risk of heart attack

iStock/ThinkstockDR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Stress can affect your body in so many ways, but researchers now believe it could be as important a risk factor for heart attacks as smoking and high blood pressure.

A new study finds a correlation between stress and heart disease by looking at a part of the brain called the amygdala, which becomes metabolically active during times of stress.

While we’ve long known that stress can affect your heart, this study helps reinforce the belief that more “at-risk” patients should seek help managing their stress levels.

Stress in a medical sense can sometimes be a good thing -- our bones and muscles respond positively when stressed. But our bodies also respond to stress by releasing hormones that are beneficial short-term but can be harmful long-term. That's why managing stress with meditation, exercise or talk therapy can be so helpful.

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