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How Stress Affects Your Health

Stress is a state of mental or emotional tension or emotional strain caused by a challenging situation. Everybody gets to experience stress in life, and it is almost part of our everyday existence. Studies show that some stress can be good because the challenge they bring keep us alert, and motivated. Still, Stress has various adverse effects on the body. The good thing is that stress can be managed or controlled.

If stress is not properly managed or controlled, too much exposure to stress can make a person sick. As much as stress can cause certain mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, stress can also cause sicknesses that are beyond mental strain as too much stress can affect a person’s physical health condition. Stress can either cause physical sickness or worsen an already existing health condition.

If you are frequently stressed, you can be susceptible to physical symptoms, such as headaches, high blood pressure, chest pain, insomnia, and stress can even cause low libido.

The stress reaction will depend on how much your threshold for stress is for both your mind and your body. Below are a few ways that stress affects your health:

Mental Health 

Prolonged exposure to stressful circumstances increases your risk of suffering different mental health problems such as anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, and depression. Feeling stressed can cause you to be overwhelmed and stop enjoying activities that you would normally enjoy.

Headaches 

When you are stressed, your body develops a flight or fight reaction to the situation. Constant exposure to stress causes you to be alert all the time and this causes tension in your muscles which causes you to feel tension headaches. Stress can also cause you to feel tightness across your forehead and on the side of your head.

Heart and blood pressure 

Stress affects the heart and causes diseases such as stroke, heart attack, and irregular heart rhythm. Stress increases the cortisol level which can affect the blood and causes things such as high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. These things are common factors that can lead to heart disease and coronary issues. Increased heartbeat which can result from stress can also damage the arteries around the heart.

Respiratory system 

Stress can affect the respiratory system in various ways. When you are stressed, the respiratory muscles tense and this can cause you to be short of breath. Stress can lead to hyperventilation which is rapid breathing. This makes you breathless and decreases the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood. Reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood can lead to numbness, rapid heartbeat, asthma, and lightheadedness.

If you have underlining respiratory systems such as asthma, stress makes breathing even harder than normal.

Muscles and joints

When you are stressed, your muscles tense up and this can cause soreness and tightness in your muscles. Tension in the muscles also causes painful spasms, and stiffness in the joint and every other part of the body. Long-term stress also causes your body to produce cytokine molecules, which causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain.

Immune system

Stress also reduces the immune response to fight off antigens. This makes you more susceptible to diseases and infections. Corticosteroid, which is secreted when you are stressed, also reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. A strong immune system is required to fight off infections and so when you are constantly under stress, you are susceptible to infections and diseases.

Skin and hair

Studies show that stress affects the skin and causes things such as uneven skin tone, and acne. When stressed, the chemicals your body releases can cause inflammation which will make your skin much more sensitive. It can also cause rashes. Stress also affects the protein in your skin which affects the elasticity of your skin. Stress can also affect existing skin conditions such as eczema.

Stress also affects the hair. For instance, when you are stressed, your hair follicles go into a resting phase in which they do not produce new strands of hair. If you are under a prolonged stress period, it can cause your hair to fall out easily whenever you comb or even touch your hair. Stress can also contribute to Alopecia Areata which causes large amounts of hair to fall out, causing patches on your scalp.

Stomach 

Stress can affect your eating pattern and can cause you to have an increased appetite or a reduced appetite which can cause an unhealthy diet and unhealthy eating habits. Stress can also either slow down digestion or speed it up. This causes things such as bloating and diarrhea. Stress can also cause worse digestive conditions such as ulcers, acid reflux, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Brain 

Stress kills brain cells which reduce the size of the brain. Studies show that continuing stress can lead to loss of synaptic connections between brain cells. This results in a reduction in the part of the brain responsible for regulating your behavior, leading to loss of sociability with others. Stress also damages the area of the brain used for learning and memory. This leads to memory deficits.

Weight  

Studies show that there is a link between stress and weight gain and weight loss. The hormones released because of stress can cause a person to either eat too much or have a reduced appetite. Overeating will cause your body to store fat which can lead to obesity and other related diseases. Loss of appetite leads to weight loss and fatigue.

Fertility 

Too much stress negatively affects fertility. Reduction in stress level causes an increase in the blood flow to the reproductive organs thereby increasing the nutrient in these organs. For women, stress can affect and prevent ovulation. For men, stress can cause erectile dysfunction. Generally, stress reduces libido and makes it more difficult for a person to get aroused.

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