The modern lifestyle, which puts people under constant stress, could severely damage major organs and lead to heart attacks, kidney disease and dementia, scientists have warned.
Stress may lead to unhealthy habits such as smoking, eating a poor diet, drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough exercise - adding to the risk of developing heart problems.
AdvertisementFor some people, being under constant stress can contribute to developing high blood pressure. Every year, high blood pressure is implicated in an estimated 7.1 million deaths worldwide.
The problem is growing, according to the study unveiled at the European Parliament in Brussels, most rapidly in emerging countries with Westernised economies such as India, Brazil, China, Russia, Turkey and central European states, reported the online edition of BBC News.
Researcher Panos Kanavos of the London School of Economics, one of the international experts who studied the situation, said it was wrong to think that high blood pressure only affected older people.
"Uncontrolled high blood pressure among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s will inevitably lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease and stroke," he said.
One in four adults already have the condition - but if nothing is done that figure could rise by 60 percent over 20 years, the research team said.
"It is important to identify the things that cause you stress and look at how you may deal with stressful situations," said June Davison, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.
Risk factors include smoking, high intake of salt and fat, excessive alcohol intake, and obesity.
A major reason for failure to control it is the refusal of up to 50 percent of patients to take prescribed medication and stick to recommended lifestyle changes.
The scientists warn that unless people modify their lifestyles, and diagnosis and treatment improve, recent gains in treating cardiovascular disease could be reversed.
"Making changes to your lifestyle such as taking regular exercise can help you cope with stress," Davison said.