We all get stressed from time to time. We’ve also probably all heard how stress can be hard on the human body, but many of us are unaware of the fact that many commonly-experienced imbalances in health may actually be our body’s way of responding to physical and mental stress.
Recent scientific studies have indicated that the human body’s reaction to stress could be one of the main causes of many life-threatening diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
What Stress Does To The Body
Thousands of years ago, our ancestors needed the stress response as a fight-or-flight reaction to very real and approaching dangers, such as ravenous wolves or tumbling boulders.
Today, humans are, for the most part, free from the danger of being eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger, and yet our bodies respond as if an attack was imminent. When we feel that we are in danger (i.e. as we sit through traffic jams and grocery store lines) a stress response surges through us and our bodies under-go an explosion of stress hormones that, over-time, are hazardous to our health.
9 Ways Stress Can Negatively Affect Your Health
The following list offers some of the ways in which on-going stress can negatively effect your health
1. Increased Heart Rate
When we enter into the fight or flight mode, the heart-rate naturally speeds up. While this may be a great thing if we need to run quickly, overtime this can significantly tire out the heart and lead to cardiovascular diseases, increased cholesterol and even excess belly fat.
2. Digestion Slows (Possibly Stops)
When we go into a state of stress, the energy needed for digestive processes is immediately sent to external areas of the body, such as the head, heart and limbs. This leads to a whole host of chronic stress-related digestive conditions. Chronic constipation and irritable bowel conditions are directly related, in many cases, to chronic stress. In fact, estimates show that as many as 20 percent of Americans experience chronic constipation and symptoms of IBS. Changes in appetite are also a stress-related condition. When we experience mental and emotional stress, we often reach for comfort foods to give us the false sensation of being calm. Similarly, some people react in the opposite way, losing their appetites when stress or anxiety levels are high.
3. High Blood Pressure Problems
Studies show that when we are under stress, blood flow to the brain and muscles increase up to 400 percent. While this may be useful if we are planning on leaping into a tree, over time, chronic stress creates the scene for high blood pressure conditions or even a stroke.
4. Weight Gain
Evidence shows that increased cortisol hormone levels caused by prolonged stress can lead to overall weight gain.