How does Stress affect your health?
Stress is a pure physical and mental reaction to both good and bad experiences that can be beneficial to your health and safety. Your body answers to stress by releasing hormones and increasing your heart and breathing rates. Your brain gets more oxygen, giving you an edge in answering to a problem. In the short term, stress helps you cope with tough situations. Stress can be activated by the pressures of everyday responsibilities at work and at home. So can physical illness. Traumatic stress, brought on by war, disaster, or a violent attack, can keep your body’s stress levels elevated far longer than is important for survival. Long-term stress can cause a variety of symptoms and can affect your overall health and well-being. Here are some ways that show how does stress affect your health.
Central Nervous and Endocrine Systems
Your central nervous system (CNS) is responsible of your “fight or flight” response. The CNS instantly tells the rest of your body what to do, gathering all resources to the cause. In the brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. When the perceived fear is gone, the CNS should direct all systems to go back to normal. It has done its job. If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor doesn’t go away, it takes a toll on your body. Symptoms of chronic stress include irritability, anxiety, and depression. You may suffer from headaches or insomnia. Long-term stress is a factor in some behaviors like overeating or not eating enough, alcohol or drug abuse, or social withdrawal. This is how stress affects your health and your nervous system.
Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems
Stress hormones badly affect your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During the stress response, you breathe faster in an effort to dispense oxygen and blood quickly to your body core. If you have preexisting respiratory problems like asthma or emphysema, stress can make it more difficult to breathe. Your heart also pumps faster. Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to compress and raise your blood pressure. All that helps get oxygen to your brain and heart so you’ll have more strength and energy to perform action. Frequent or chronic stress makes your heart work too hard for too long, increasing your risk of hypertension and problems with your blood vessels and heart. The female hormone estrogen provides pre-menopausal women some protection from stress-related heart disease.
Under stress, your liver manufactures extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy. Unused blood sugar is absorbed by the body again. If you’re under long-term stress, your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge, and you may be at an increased risk of originating type 2 diabetes.The rush of hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate can distress your digestive system. You’re more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers which a bacterium called H. pylori does — but stress can cause existing ulcers to act up. You might go through nausea, vomiting, or a stomachache. Stress can affect the way food proceeds through your body, leading to diarrhea or constipation.
Stress triggers the immune system. In the short term, that’s a bonus. It helps you stave off infection and heal wounds. Over time, cortisol balances your immune system, inhibiting histamine secretion and inflammatory response to foreign invaders. People under long-term stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like influenza and the common cold. It escalates the risk of other opportunistic diseases and infections. It can also increase the time it takes to recover from illness or injury.