Stress is a condition that is often characterized by symptoms of physical or emotional tension. It is a reaction to a situation where a person feels threatened or anxious. Stress can be positive (e.g., preparing for a wedding) or negative (e.g., dealing with a natural disaster).
Stress can be beneficial by helping people develop the skills they need to cope with and adapt to new and potentially threatening situations throughout life. However, the beneficial aspects of stress diminish when it is severe enough to overwhelm a person’s ability to take care of themselves and family.
If you are constantly exposed to stress, beware of the damage it can cause to your body.
Here are 10 health problems related to stress:
Heart disease. Stress can directly increase heart rate and blood flow, and causes the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood stream.
Doctors do know that sudden emotional stress can be a trigger for serious cardiac problems, including heart attacks. People who have chronic heart problems need to avoid acute stress, and learn how to successfully manage life’s unavoidable stresses.
Asthma. Many studies have shown that stress can worsen asthma. A study looked at how parental stress affected the asthma rates of young children (who were exposed to air pollution or whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. The kids with stressed out parents had a substantially higher risk of developing asthma.
Obesity. Excess fat in the belly seems to pose greater health risks than fat on the legs or hips and unfortunately, that’s where people with high stress seem to store it. Research shows stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which increases the amount of fat that’s deposited in the abdomen.
Diabetes. Stress can worsen diabetes in two ways. First, it increases the likelihood of bad behaviors, such as unhealthy eating and excessive drinking. Second, stress seems to raise the glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes directly.
Headaches. Stress is considered one of the most common triggers for headaches. And not just tension headaches, but migraines as well.
Depression and anxiety. It’s no surprise that chronic stress is connected with higher rates of depression and anxiety. Recent study found that people who had stress related to their jobs (like demanding work with few rewards) had an 80% higher risk of developing depression within a few years than people with lower stress.
Gastrointestinal problems. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers. But, it can make them worse. Stress is a common factor in many other GI conditions, such as chronic heartburn (or gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Alzheimer’s disease. One animal study found that stress might worsen Alzheimer’s disease, causing its brain lesions to form more quickly. Some researchers speculate that reducing stress has the potential to slow down the progression of the disease.
Accelerated aging. One study compared the DNA of mothers who were under high stress, they were caring for a chronically ill child, with women who were not. Researchers found that a particular region of the chromosomes showed the effects of accelerated aging. Stress seemed to accelerate aging about 9 to 17 additional years.
Premature death. A study looked at the health effects of stress by studying elderly caregivers looking after their spouses, these people are naturally under a great deal of stress. It was found that caregivers had a 63% higher rate of death than people their age who were not caregivers.
Equally important but often less appreciated are effects on various systems, organs and tissues all over the body, as illustrated by the following diagram, published by American Institute of Stress.