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You're going to have some stress in your life -- we all do, and it's normal. One of the best things you can do for your health is manage that stress.
Table of contents



How stress affects your body - Sharon Horesh Bergquist

Genes and things that happen to you early in life e. Overeating, smoking, drinking, and not exercising, which can often result from being under stress, can also add to the negative effects of stress. Allostasis is the process of how the body responds to stress, whether it is acute short-term or chronic long-term. In this case, the stress response causes the body to release several stress hormones e. These hormones intensify your concentration, ability to react, and strength.

Also, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your immune system and memory are shaper. After you have dealt with the short-term stress, your body returns to normal. Chronic or long-term stress, however, poses a problem. Stress hormones build up in the blood and, over time, can cause serious health problems.

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The bodily changes that happen during moments of stress can be very helpful when they happen for a short time. But when the response is drawn out for a long period of time, producing too many stress hormones can affect your health.

The long-term effect of chronic stress called allostatic load causes wear and tear on the body. Health problems can include: Stomach ache is common due to a slow down in the emptying of the stomach; also diarrhea due to more activity in the colon. Increase in appetite, which can lead to weigh gain.

The Effects of Stress on Your Body

Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Weakening of the immune system so that you are more likely to have colds and other infections. Anxiety, depression, loss of sleep and lack of interest in physical activity. Memory and decision-making can also be affected.

How Stress Affects Your Health

Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood fats cholesterol and triglycerides. Also, increase in blood sugar glucose levels especially in evening hours and appetite which contributes to weight gain.

A ll of these effects are risk factors for heart disease, atherosclerosis and stroke, as well as obesity and diabetes. Feelings commonly related with short-term stress are anxiousness, nervousness, distraction, worry, and pressure. If your stress level increases or lasts for a longer time, you might experience other physical or emotional effects: These symptoms may also lead to loss of appetite, overeating and poor sleep, all of which can have serious consequences for your health.

Usually these symptoms are minor and may be relieved through coping skills such as learning to relax, removing yourself for a time from the things that stress you out, and exercising.

Stress and your health

If the symptoms are severe, however, you may need to seek medical help to be able to identify the source of your stress and the best way to manage it. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body's reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm your health. Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones. These hormones make your brain more alert, cause your muscles to tense, and increase your pulse.

In the short term, these reactions are good because they can help you handle the situation causing stress. This is your body's way of protecting itself. When you have chronic stress, your body stays alert, even though there is no danger. Over time, this puts you at risk for health problems, including:. Stress can cause many types of physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes, you may not realize these symptoms are caused by stress. Here are some signs that stress may be affecting you:.

What is stress?

The causes of stress are different for each person. You can have stress from good challenges and as well as bad ones.

Considerations

Some common sources of stress include:. Call your health care provider if you feel overwhelmed by stress, or if it is affecting your health. Also call your provider if you notice new or unusual symptoms. Your provider may refer you to a mental health care provider. You can talk to this professional about your feelings, what seems to make your stress better or worse, and why you think you are having this problem. Psychosocial influences on health. Textbook of Family Medicine. National Institute of Mental Health website.

Fact sheet on stress. Accessed November 3, Vaccarino V, Bremner JD. Psychiatric and behavioral aspects of cardiovascular disease. A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine.