Have you ever raised a teenager, bought a house, planned a wedding or had a deadline at work that you almost missed? Stress occurs more often than we think and can actually be a positive source of motivation - helping us complete deadlines or push harder across the finish line. Stress may also be brought on by life changes such as moving, financial strain, job satisfaction or loss of a loved one. When stress is prolonged over a period of time, or not managed properly it often becomes chronic, which can impact your overall health. The good news? There are activities that you can do to reduce the impact that stress has in your life.
Here are 15 ways stress can affect your health:
Unhealthy Food Cravings
Find yourself reaching for that pint of ice cream when you’re stressed? There’s a scientific reason for that! Cortisol, a hormone released by your body when it’s stressed, is linked to cravings for sugar and fat.
Stress can actually increase the amount of fat that your body stores and enlarges the size of fat cells. This can lead to weight gain and increase your risk for obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – key risk factors for cardiovascular disease [link to health screening for heart disease). Exercise, however, can help combat fat storage, in addition to reducing your overall stress level. So find a regimen that works for you and stick to it.
If you suffer from chronic stress, it could be affecting your heart health. While an exact link between chronic stress and heart attacks isn’t clear, studies have shown that individuals who suffer from job related stress have a 23% more likely to have a first heart attack vs. people with no job related stress.
Stress may occasionally keep you up at night, but if you have long-term stress it can disrupt your sleep pattern and potentially cause a disorder.
Stress can cause everything from a minor headache to a migraine. This is due to “fight or flight” chemicals that your body releases, in addition to making your muscles tense up.
Severe stress can harm your locks. Stress can trigger hair loss from an autoimmune condition known as alopecia areata. If stress is coupled with anxiety, it can contribute to a mental disorder that gives people an urge to pull their own hair out.
Stress can raise blood sugar, and if you have type 2 diabetes, you may notice that your blood sugar levels are higher if you are stressed.
Stress can cause heartburn, stomach cramps and diarrhea or, if you have these conditions, make them worse.
Raises Blood Pressure
Being in a stressful situation can raise your blood pressure by constricting your blood vessels and speeding up your heart rate. While in most cases this is temporary, it’s unclear if chronic stress can cause long-lasting effects.
Research now shows that major stress can actually reduce the amount of brain tissue in areas that regulate emotions and self-control.
Stress causes your muscles to tense as a part of the “fight or flight” response system, which can cause short instances of pain and contribute to ongoing chronic pain.
Stress has been linked to an increased risk of stroke (link to carotid artery screening page). Even if you are generally healthy, suffering a stressful event within the past year increases your stroke risk.
Suffering stress chronically or from a traumatic event shortens telomeres, which are protective camps on the ends of chromosomes in cells, causing your cells to age more quickly.
Stress may amplify the immune response to asthma triggers such as pollen, animal dander, or dust.
Individuals who are sensitive to stress can experience seizure-like symptoms, including far-off staring and convulsions if they are in high stress situations.
Reducing Stress in Your Life
While this list of health complications from stress is long, the good news is that healthy habits can make a huge impact in combating them. Following an exercise routine in addition to a nutritionally balanced diet can make all the difference.
Don’t Let Stress Impact Your Health
If you have experienced one or more effects above, we invite you to take our health risk assessment
. Our health risk assessment uses identifiable health information to help you determine your risk factors for chronic illnesses and what preventive health screenings can enable you to learn if you are at risk for vascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, and other chronic illnesses.