Starting today, I will be doing a month of blog posts on stress. Why it’s bad, health issues it can cause, and ways to combat it.
Stress has a larger impact on our health than most people realize. It not only harms our health in the short term, but it can contribute to the development of major illnesses and even kill us. It is directly linked to the top six causes of death in America, including heart attacks, suicide, and even cancer. Here are five ways stress can destroy our health.
When under stress, our bodies release a cocktail of hormones to prepare us for the classic flight, fight, or freeze response. Our blood pressure rises, our eyes dilate, and our heart rate goes up. This response helps us survive an immediate danger such as an attack from a wild animal. It’s supposed to end when the attack is over. Unfortunately, modern stressors don’t go away so quickly, and our brains can’t tell the difference between an impending tiger attack and a fast-approaching work deadline. The result is that our bodies continuously pump out these hormones to try and keep us alive. Unfortunately, long-term exposure to them causes physical damage to our heart and circulatory systems. The result is cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Weight Issues and Diabetes
Two of the hormones affected by stress are insulin and cortisol. Unfortunately, our bodies produce too much cortisol and either too much or too little insulin when we’re under pressure. Add in the effects of stress-related overeating or undereating, and you have the perfect recipe for weight issues and type 2 diabetes.
Immune System Suppression
Too much exposure to stress also weakens our immune systems. This leads us to be more susceptible to viral and bacterial illnesses. Unfortunately, it also contributes to chronic diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune conditions, and eventually cancers and other serious and sometimes fatal diseases.
Sex and Fertility Problems
Stress can also lead to impotence in men and fertility issues in women. The last thing our bodies want to do when we are under a serious threat is to have sex and get pregnant, and thus too much stress can lead to sex and reproductive issues.
Anxiety and Mental Illnesses
Finally, stress can also destroy our mental health. It’s been shown to cause anxiety and depression directly. In addition, stress can cause panic attacks, trouble concentrating, problems sleeping, irritability, and nightmares. It can also contribute to the development of more severe mental illnesses.
These are only a few of the many ways in which stress can destroy our health. There are many others, from the development of gum disease to poor decision-making that leads to serious accidents. Stress is unavoidable in the modern world, but managing it is essential to maintain our health.
Tomorrow I will be back with tips for de-stressing at work.
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