Chronic stress equals smoking five cigarettes dailyMore research supports your need to unwind: being chronically stressed out has been found to be as dangerous as smoking five cigarettes a day.

New research from Columbia University Medical Center in the US found that people who said they felt anxious and overwhelmed were 27 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack.

“These findings are significant because they are applicable to nearly everyone,” says study author Safiya Richardson.

“The key takeaway is that how people feel is important for their heart health, so anything they can do to reduce stress may improve their heart health in the future.”

Researchers analyzed data from six studies involving nearly 120,000 people.

In the studies, subjects had been asked about their perceived stressload with questions such as “How stressed do you feel?” and “How often are you stressed?” Subjects were tracked for 14 years, with researchers tabulating the number of heart attacks that occurred during that time frame.

Want to slash your stress levels? New research from the University of California, Los Angeles, finds that yoga can reduce stress by decreasing inflammation in the body with as little as 12 minutes of practice a day for eight weeks. The study was published this week in The American Journal of Cardiology.

Taking good care of yourself is also vital to curbing stress — be sure to get plenty of rest and regular exercise, advises medical resource WebMD.

Also eat well, don’t smoke, and limit your alcohol consumption.