How stress affects your body is no secret, it can manifest physically – causing headaches, muscle tension, and chest flutters, mood swings, or changes in appetite. However, these are just surface indicators of the more profound effects that ongoing, chronic stress can have on every part of your body, affecting your nervous, circulatory, digestive, and immune systems, among others.....CONTINUE READING
The Good News About Stress
Stress isn’t entirely negative, and the hormones released in response to stress serve a purpose. These hormone levels naturally vary throughout the day as you face different challenges, even something as simple as waking up.
You can also effectively manage stress through small actions like deep breathing, taking a walk, using a meditation app, or using a fidget spinner to divert your focus from what’s causing your stress. These strategies can help interrupt the body’s fight-or-flight response, preventing a surge in stress hormones that can elevate your blood pressure and heart rate.
Even short-term stress can impact your body by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Normally, your cortisol levels, a stress hormone, should return to normal after the stressful event ends.
However, severe short-term stress can lead to a condition known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or “broken-heart syndrome.” This rare heart condition weakens the heart’s left ventricle, often resulting from intense emotional or physical stress. While this condition is generally uncommon, 90 per cent of cases occur in women.
Stress-induced cardiomyopathy can be triggered by highly stressful events like major conflicts or the loss of a loved one. Patients may experience severe chest pain and symptoms resembling acute heart failure, even though their coronary arteries are clear. Fortunately, with treatment, most people recover from this condition.
Should I Get a Stress Test?
A stress test doesn’t gauge the stress in your life; instead, it evaluates the cardiovascular and physical stress placed on your heart. It assesses how hard your heart works and its performance when you walk briskly on an inclined treadmill.
This test is typically recommended for individuals with multiple heart disease risk factors or those experiencing specific symptoms like chest pain or palpitations.
The goal of a stress test is to observe how the heart responds to increased demands for oxygen, including rising blood pressure and blood flow. It helps identify potential obstructions in the arteries that could impede blood flow and require treatment.
Why Long-Term Stress Is So Bad for Your Body Systems
Prolonged, unmanaged stress, spanning months or years, can lead to more severe health issues than short-term stressors.
Chronic stress triggers the release of hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine, affecting various aspects of the body. This interference can disrupt sleep patterns and increase the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and anxiety, according to Alka Gupta, MD, the chief medical officer at Bluerock Care.
Here’s how chronic stress can impact the body:
Chronic stress is linked to increased inflammation, which is associated with various diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain.
2. Digestive Issues:
Stress can worsen symptoms of conditions like acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease due to its effect on the gastrointestinal tract.
3. Weakened Immune System:
Stress can lower immunity, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses, and it often triggers flare-ups in autoimmune conditions.
4. Brain Function:
Chronic stress can lead to changes in brain structure and function, affecting cognition and attention. It may make it challenging to focus and learn.
5. Pain Sensitivity:
Stress can heighten sensitivity to pain and lead to muscular tension, affecting how individuals perceive and experience pain.
6. Sleep Disruption:
Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, impacting the immune system, and increasing the risk of depression, irritability, and exhaustion.
Effectively managing stress is crucial in preventing these negative health outcomes. Techniques like meditation have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and help reduce the impact of chronic stress on the body.
Is it possible to get cancer from stress or to Die from it?
Although directly pinpointing stress to a specific disease is challenging, it is widely recognized that stress plays a role in the development of serious illnesses.
Stress can contribute to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, excessive drinking, and poor eating habits that lead to obesity.
These factors are known to increase the risk of diseases, including cancer. It is noteworthy that many heart attacks tend to happen on Mondays, which are often considered the most stressful day of the week.