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10 Ways Stress Can Adversely Affect Your Health

Whether it’s the short-term frustration of a missed airplane or the long-term frustration of a job or a major life event, stress can affect our health in terrible ways. Stress is a part of our daily lives today, with all the unpleasant life experiences we go through due to financial issues, relationships, career, etc. Stress can affect us physically and mentally in adverse ways that we are often ignorant about. Read on to find out what about the ten major ways stress can impact your overall health.

1. Fight-Or-Flight Response And Headaches

Stress makes the body ready for action through the fight-or-flight response. This means that when the brain senses danger, the hypothalamus sends triggers to the adrenal glands (endocrine glands) in the form of chemicals and along the nerves. The adrenals release cortisol, the stress hormone that raises blood pressure and blood sugar in the body. Cortisol can also leave you with a migraine or a tension headache, make your muscles tense, and, make pre-existing headaches worse.1

2. High Blood Pressure And Heart Attack

Although the exact relationship between stress and heart attack is still not known, there is some evidence that stress can lead to a heart attack.2 It has been found that stress caused by familial tensions, financial matters, or job-related issues can raise the chance of a person getting a heart attack by almost 23 percent. The stress hormone cortisol is known to raise blood pressure which can also result in a heart attack. The best way to prevent this is to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.

3. Increase In Cravings

The release of the stress hormone cortisol can increase your craving to have more sugary and fatty foods. If you are already on the higher side of the body mass index scale, you are even more susceptible to these cravings.3

4. Increase In Waistline And Change In Weight

Stress can make you gain weight. This is due to two reasons: poor eating habits and the release of cortisol.4 While you give in to your cravings and start having more and more sugary and fatty foods, the stress hormone cortisol might work to increase the amount of fat tissue that the body hangs onto and often increase the size of the fat cells. High cortisol levels are also linked to deep abdominal fat or belly fat. Stress could lead to weight loss in lean individuals and weight gain in overweight people.5 6 The only solution to this is a healthy diet and regular exercise.

5. Insomnia

Stress can lead to a state of hyper-arousal, a condition which leads to sleeplessness. Insomnia can be caused by a stressful period, but long-term stress can result in sleep disorders in the future.7 8 To cure yourself of insomnia and sleep disorders, focus on your sleep hygiene by inculcating good sleeping habits and make your sleeping environment healthy. Also, practice yoga and meditation to combat stress during the day.

6. Difficulty With Memory

High levels of cortisol in the body can make it difficult for the brain to make new memories. This means that you might face a hard time trying to think straight or retrieve certain memories. Meditation can be used as a tool to help you deal with such situations.

7. Skin Breakouts

Skin breakouts are often a result of stress. Stress can make you more prone to acne due to an increase in the male hormone, androgen. Many students have also been found to be prone to skin breakouts during the time of exams due to stress.9

8. Hair Fall

Facing a hard time with hair fall issues? Blame stress. It has been found that stress can trigger hair loss due to an autoimmune condition known as alopecia areata.10 This condition leads to sudden bald spots. Stress and anxiety can together lead to trichotillomania as well, a condition when people find it difficult to resist themselves from pulling their own hair from the scalp.

9. Digestive Issues

Be it those awful cramps, heartburn, bloating, or diarrhea, stress could be the reason for them all. Stress is particularly the primary cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is characterized by pain, diarrhea, and even constipation. Talk to your doctor if stress is causing you to deal with these issues.

10. Complications In Pregnancy

If you are pregnant and under severe stress, you are likely to increase the chances of premature labor.11 It has also been found that high stress levels can affect the development of the brain in the fetus. To fight such situations effectively, you could practice prenatal yoga and stress-reduction therapies but make sure you first consult your doctor. In certain cases, stress can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. High levels of stress-related compounds such as alpha-amylase have also been found to decrease the chances of getting pregnant by as high as 12 percent.12

Follow These Tips To Deal With Stress

There are several ways to deal with stress and keep yourself calm through tough situations in life. All you need to do is follow a healthy lifestyle and inculcate a few good habits. Look at the list below to learn how you can reduce stress and stress-related problems effectively.

  • Talk to a friend
  • Get enough sleep
  • Indulge in a physical activity regularly
  • Practice meditation techniques
  • Have balanced diets
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
  • Manage your time well
  • Keep a stress diary
  • Take control of your life

By keeping your stress in control, you will not only lead a healthy life but also a beautiful one.

References   [ + ]

1. Nash, Justin M., and Ronald W. Thebarge. “Understanding psychological stress, its biological processes, and impact on primary headache.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 46, no. 9 (2006): 1377-1386.
2. Cassem, Ned H., and Thomas P. Hackett. “Psychiatric consultation in a coronary care unit.” Annals of internal medicine 75, no. 1 (1971): 9-14.
3, 4. Chao, Ariana, Carlos M. Grilo, Marney A. White, and Rajita Sinha. “Food cravings mediate the relationship between chronic stress and body mass index.” Journal of health psychology 20, no. 6 (2015): 721-729.
5. Kivimäki, M., J. Head, J. E. Ferrie, M. J. Shipley, E. Brunner, J. Vahtera, and M. G. Marmot. “Work stress, weight gain and weight loss: evidence for bidirectional effects of job strain on body mass index in the Whitehall II study.” International journal of obesity 30, no. 6 (2006): 982-987.
6. Jaarsveld, Cornelia HM, Jennifer A. Fidler, Andrew Steptoe, David Boniface, and Jane Wardle. “Perceived stress and weight gain in adolescence: a longitudinal analysis.” Obesity 17, no. 12 (2009): 2155-2161.
7. Linton, Steven J. “Does work stress predict insomnia? A prospective study.” British Journal of Health Psychology 9, no. 2 (2004): 127-136.
8. Bernert, Rebecca A., Katherine A. Merrill, Scott R. Braithwaite, Kimberly A. Van Orden, and Thomas E. Joiner Jr. “Family life stress and insomnia symptoms in a prospective evaluation of young adults.” Journal of Family Psychology 21, no. 1 (2007): 58.
9. Yosipovitch, Gil, Mark Tang, Aerlyn G. Dawn, Mark Chen, Chee Leok Goh, Yiong Huak Chan, and Lim Fong Seng. “Study of psychological stress, sebum production and acne vulgaris in adolescents.” Acta dermato-venereologica 87, no. 2 (2007): 135-139.
10. Manolache, Liana, and Vasile Benea. “Stress in patients with alopecia areata and vitiligo.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 21, no. 7 (2007): 921-928.
11. Mulder, Eduard JH, PG Robles De Medina, Anja C. Huizink, Bea RH Van den Bergh, Jan K. Buitelaar, and Gerard HA Visser. “Prenatal maternal stress: effects on pregnancy and the (unborn) child.” Early human development 70, no. 1 (2002): 3-14.
12. NIH study indicates stress may delay women getting pregnant. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-indicates-stress-may-delay-women-getting-pregnant. National Institutes of Health. 2010.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.