How Does Stress Affect Your Health?

stress

By Andra Picincu.

Struggling with pain and aches? Feeling moody and low on energy? Or perhaps you’re having trouble sleeping at night? These signs might indicate that your stress levels are sky high.

Even though a little stress is normal, chronic stress can wreak havoc on your health. It messes up your hormones, affects your mood, and slows your metabolism.

Acute vs. Chronic Stress: What’s the Difference?

A staggering 77 percent of Americans experience physical symptoms due to stress. About 33 percent say they are struggling with extreme stress on a constant basis. Job pressure, financial problems, poor health, and relationship issues are often the culprits.

Stress is your body’s natural reaction to external threats. For instance, when you’re stuck in traffic or rushing to work, your cortisol and adrenaline levels go up. Your heart beats faster and you’re sweating more than usual.

As soon as you arrive at the destination, stress symptoms subside and your hormone levels return to normal. In this case, we’re talking about acute stress. This chemical reaction is perfectly normal and can be beneficial as it keeps you alert and motivated.

Chronic stress is a whole different story. It usually occurs after a trauma or results from a situation that has not been solved for months or years. For example, you may experience chronic stress if you’re constantly worried about money or work.

With chronic stress, your body is in alert mode 27/7. This means that your cortisol levels are high day and night, which in turn, affects mental and physical health. It can even trigger chronic disorders or worsen their symptoms.

 

The Dangers of Chronic Stress

The longer the stress lasts, the more it affects your mind and body. It drains your energy, leaves you fatigued, and weakens your immune system. Furthermore, cortisol – the stress hormone – promotes fat storage and lowers testosterone levels, leading to weight gain and muscle loss.

Researchers have linked chronic stress to a myriad of problems, from anxiety and depression to heart disease. According to a nine-year study, women who were constantly stressed experienced insomnia and poor sleep. Another study has found that stress affects our food choices and appetite, causing us to eat more and crave unhealthy foods.

In the long run, your risk of diabetes, stroke, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease may increase because of stress. The sooner you do something about it, the better. Make health a priority and squeeze more “me” time into your routine. Learn to relax, get more rest, and focus on the things that make you happy.

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