According to Dr. Jay Winner the author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life and the director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, CA, “Stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally. It can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.” That is yet another thing to feel stresses out about. In recent years, research has found that there are many health problems that can be attributed to stress. Chronic stress has been shown to increase the risks of a number of typical health difficulties.
- Gastrointestinal Distress and Difficulty – Despite the common misconception, stress does not cause ulcers. It does, however, make them worse. Stress has been known to be a common factor in many GI conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic heartburn, and acid reflux.
- Alzheimer’s Disease – According the WebMD, one study into Alzheimer’s disease found that stress may have worsened the lesions on the brain during Alzheimer’s disease. Stress may have caused them to grow faster in the brains of the animals studied. This information lead to speculation that reduced stress may slow the progression of the disease.
- Diabetes – Stress increases the glucose levels in the body. Adrenaline cortisol is released during moments of stress. This release causes a burst of glucose to be released into the blood as well. The glucose is the body’s natural way of preparing for the energy needed in a moment of crisis. The excess glucose can cause a variety of problems for people who live with diabetes.
- Obesity – The above mentioned increased levels of glucose and adrenaline cortisol increase the amount of fat stored in the body. Storing too much fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Stress also puts you at a higher risk for obesity because it often prompts comfort eating. Comfort eating generally includes food items that are packed with unhealthy fats and sugars.
- Heart Disease – It is not known exactly why people who live with chronic stress are also at a higher risk for heart disease through there is speculation. Stress increases blood flow and heart rate. It also causes triglycerides and cholesterol to be released into the blood stream. It is known that sudden emotional stress can trigger a heart attack or other serious cardiac problem. People with heart problems are advised to avoid sudden stress and learn tools for dealing with the unavoidable stresses of life in a healthy way.
- Asthma – Some studies have suggested that a parent’s chronic stress can influence the risk of his or her child developing asthma. A recent study indicated that children who had stressed out parents and were also exposed to air pollution or smoking in the womb were much more likely to develop asthma than those children who were only exposed to pollution or smoking. Stress can lead to shortness of breath in adults which can trigger an asthma attack.
- Depression – It is likely to be no surprise that stress and depression are linked. Stress can cause the brain to produce less of the neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Since the body is producing more cortisol, the natural patterns of the body such as mood, energy, and sleep can be disrupted. Chronic stress also leads to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol which can lead to depression as well. According to WebMD, several recent studies observed that people with stress relating to their work such as a demanding job with very few rewards are 80% more likely to develop depression than people with lower stress jobs.
- Memory Difficulties – As mentioned above, the body produces excess amount of the hormone cortisol when under stress, and cortisol interferes with the production of neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters that are affected are also those that are responsible for retrieving memories. Stress sends the glucose that is usually meant to be in the brain to other areas of the body in preparation for a fight or flight response. This glucose is meant to aid the hippocampus in the formation of new memories. Also, excessive cortisol in the brain for an extended period of time leads to the degradation of the hippocampus.
Relieving stress is the easiest way to fight off some of these health issues before they get too far. Practice relaxation and deep breathing. Yoga, meditation, and general exercise are great for stress relief. Take some time to figure out what the things are that are going to make you feel your best and stay in optimum health for the longest period of time.