The stress response has evolved over a millennium to protect us from danger. Also known as the flight-or-fight response, it gets the body ready for action. So if you're in danger, the brain sends triggers—both chemical and along the nerves—to the adrenals, which are glands that sit on top of each kidney like a hat perched on a head.
The adrenals then churn out hormones, such as cortisol, which raise blood pressure and blood sugar (among other things). It can be harmful to health if sustained over time.
Cravings - Studies have linked cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress, to cravings for sugar and fat.
Scientists believe the hormone binds to receptors in the brain that control food intake. And if you already have a high body mass index, you may be even more susceptible.
The key is to know your triggers, and be ready when deadlines loom (or whenever stress is likely).
Part of that link is due to poor eating during stress, but the stress hormone cortisol may also increase the amount of fat tissue your body hangs onto and enlarge the size of fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more deep-abdominal fat—yes, belly fat.
Luckily, exercise can help control stress and help keep belly fat under control.
Heart Health - The exact relationship between stress and heart attack is still unclear, but evidence is mounting that there is one. People who have stressful jobs and little decision-making power at work are 23% more likely to have a first heart attack than people with less job-related stress.
Insomnia - Stress can cause hyper-arousal, a biological state in which people just don't feel sleepy.
While major stressful events can cause insomnia that passes once the stress is over, long-term exposure to chronic stress can also disrupt sleep and contribute to sleep disorders, thus making it difficult for the body to fully recover.
Headaches - Your "fight or flight" chemicals like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol can cause vascular changes that leave you with a tension headache or migraine, either during the stress or in the "let-down" period afterwards. Stress also makes your muscles tense, which can make the pain of a migraine worse.
Memory - Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can interfere with the brain's ability to form new memories.
During acute stress, the hormone also interferes with neurotransmitters, the chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other. That can make it hard to think straight or retrieve memories.
Hair Loss - Severe stress may even harm your tresses. While the research is mixed, stress is thought to play a role in triggering hair loss in the autoimmune condition called alopecia areata.
Blood Sugar - Stress is known to raise blood sugar, and if you already have type 2 diabetes you may find that your blood sugar is higher when you are under stress.
Digestion - Heartburn, stomach cramping, and diarrhea can all be caused by or worsened by stress.
Blood Pressure -
A stressful situation can raise your blood pressure temporarily by constricting your blood vessels and speeding up your heart rate, but these effects disappear when the stress has passed. It's not yet clear whether chronic stress can cause more permanent changes in your blood pressure, but techniques like mindfulness and meditation may help.
Brain Tissue - Brain-imaging research shows that major stresses can reduce the amount of tissue in regions of the brain that regulate emotions and self-control. This damage may make dealing with future stresses even harder, but it can likely be reversed with effective stress-management techniques.
Skin - Most acne sufferers already suspect this is true, and they seem to be right: Stress can give you zits.
Stress can also trigger psoriasis (which I have experienced since I was 15 years old), to appear for the first time or make an existing case more severe. Many doctors are starting to incorporate stress-management techniques such as biofeedback and meditation into their treatment programs for the skin disease.
Back Pain - Stress can set off an acute attack of back pain as well as contribute to ongoing chronic pain, probably for the simple reason that the "fight or flight" response involves tensing your muscles so that you're ready to spring into action.
One recent study in Europe found that people who are prone to anxiety and negative thinking are more likely to develop back pain, while a U.S. study tied anger and mental distress to ongoing back pain.
Premature Aging - Traumatic events and chronic stress can both shorten telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of cell chromosomes, causing your cells to age faster.
The good news? Exercising vigorously three times a week may be enough to counteract the effect.
Constant Suffering of Colds - Researchers believe stressed people's immune cells may be less sensitive to a hormone that turns off inflammation, which could offer a clue to why stress can be correlated with more serious diseases as well.
With daily exercise, yoga or meditation, you should be able to combat chronic stress!
Dedicated to your Health & Happiness!
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