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Secondhand Stress: The Dangers & What You Can Do To Combat It

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- You've heard of secondhand smoke, but what about secondhand stress?

Experts say it is an ailment as contagious as a common cold, but with much more serious health consequences.

Whether it is a co-worker, your boss or even your spouse, people can just walk from room to room just spreading the tension to everyone in their path.

Larry Stack, who suffered a massive heart attack three years ago, says "the primary reason was stress."

Cardiologist Dr. Merle Myerson treated Stack and said secondhand stress surely contributed to his cardiovascular disease.

"Constant stress can raise blood pressure, it can also increase the risk for having a heart attack or have coronary artery disease," Myerson said. "A lot of emotional feelings are what's called transferred, so if you're with someone who is angry or who is stressed then you may start to feel that way as well."

Doctors say chronic stress can also lead to muscle tension, fatigue, insomnia and depression.

While experts say those in stressful situations may overcompensate in an effort to diffuse them, the key may be refocusing your attention.

"If you focus on something neutral like your breath, then you just gently kind of create a clearing in your mind -- kind of a break from all of that stuff that's going on," Martin Boroson, the author of "One Moment Meditation," said.

Going for a walk may also be a helpful tactic in combating stress.

"Once you've got the hot potato of stress, don't throw it to somebody else, do something to reduce it," Boroson said.

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