How does stress affect health? Stress can affect a person’s physical, emotional and mental health adversely in many ways.
It is estimated that 90% of diseases are caused by stress. If we can get a handle on the stress that affects our lives, we might be able to live longer, healthier, happier lives.
Merriam-Webster defines stress as: “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation; a state resulting from a stress: one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existant equilibrium“.
Stress can be a positive force that keeps us alert, ready to avoid or handle danger or meet deadlines. It can also enhance our emotional intelligence and creative capabilities.
Stress can come from your external environment, your inner thoughts and your body itself.
During a ‘fight or flight’ instance, the body releases stress hormones to allow a burst of strength and endurance.
Your heart speeds up, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, digestion stops, and blood flow to your muscles and brain increase up to 400%.
When you are under stress, the ‘fight or flight’ hormones still flood your system, and after repeated instances, this reaction can harm your physical, mental and emotional health.
Stress is known to build up and when symptoms start to surface, it’s the body’s way of getting our attention to do something about it.
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How does stress affect health?
You may notice one or several of these signs that your body is under stress:
- Anxiety disorders (OCD, panic attacks)
- Chemical dependence (drugs, alcohol, nicotine)
- Chest pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Circulatory system problems (feeling cold, or hot and sweating)
- Cold / flu
- Dizziness, light-headedness
- Eating disorders
- Hair loss
- Headaches / migraines
- Heart disease (heart attack, stroke)
- High blood pressure
- Hormonal changes
- Immune system disorders (a compromised immune system can lead to the majority of all diseases – the immune system is the most important factor in overall health)
- Loss of energy and motivation
- Memory lapses
- Menstrual irregularity
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches and pains
- Nervous system
- Post traumatic stress disorder (flashbacks, re-living traumatic events
- Sexual dysfunction
- Skin conditions (breakouts, rashes, cold sores)
- Sleep disturbances
- Speaking and swallowing difficulty
- Stomach distress (nausea, indigestion, ulcers, constipation, diarrhea)
- Weight gain / obesity
- Weight loss
To answer the question, “How does stress affect health?”, another question to consider is, “How does stress NOT affect your health?”
Inside the body:
Interleukin-6 is an immune system protein that is usually at higher levels in people that have intense stress.
Large amounts of this protein have been associated with diseases such as cancer, diabetes, infections, heart disease, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
There are many effective ways of handling daily stress and taking control of your life and health.
If you think that your stress has progressed to the point of possibly becoming an anxiety disorder, here is a link to some excellent information: “All About Anxiety”