The review concerns a number of basic molecular pathways that play a crucial role in perception, transmission, and modulation of the stress signals, and mediate the adaptation of the vital processes in the cardiovascular system (CVS). These highly complex systems for intracellular transfer of information include stress hormones and their receptors, stress-activated phosphoprotein kinases, stress-activated heat shock proteins, and antioxidant enzymes maintaining oxidoreductive homeostasis of the CVS. Failure to compensate for the deleterious effects of stress may result in the development of different pathophysiological states of the CVS, such as ischemia, hypertension, atherosclerosis and infarction. Stress-induced dysbalance in each of the CVS molecular signaling systems and their contribution to the CVS malfunctioning is reviewed. The general picture of the molecular mechanisms of the stress-induced pathophysiology in the CVS pointed out the importance of stress duration and intensity as etiological factors, and suggested that future studies should be complemented by the careful insights into the individual factors of susceptibility to stress, prophylactic effects of 'healthy' life styles and beneficial action of antioxidant-rich nutrition.