Of all the toxins in the world, stress might be one of the most damaging. If left untreated, it may lead to chronic inflammation, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Symptoms of stress may include chest pain, rapid heartbeat, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, muscle or joint pain, increased or decreased appetite and sex drive, and overwhelming feelings of anxiety, sadness, or irritability. Here are ten scary truths behind the effects of dealing with chronic stress.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, chronic stress impairs the ability to concentrate, which increases the risk of accidents. Stress also has negative consequences on learning and memory because it kills brain cells. According to one study, the hippocampus in people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder shrinks by eight percent. The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Another study indicated that stress disrupts glucose channeling to the brain, which cuts off the brain's energy source.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Although research has yet to prove that stress causes heart disease, stroke and heart attacks, it has been shown to worsen these conditions. Stress restricts the arteries, which puts extra work on the heart to pump blood through restricted blood vessels. Stress also thickens the blood, making it harder to pump and increases blood pressure. Chronic stress causes inflammation that may cause damage to blood vessels, which increases the risk of hypertension, atherosclerosis, and stroke.
Chronic stress affects processes within the body that usually help keep skin looking young and healthy, which can have an impact on a person’s outward appearance. Stress can also affect brain aging by killing off brain cells and allowing toxins to cross the blood-brain barrier. One study found that high cortisol levels experience a reduction in hippocampus size by fourteen percent. Another study linked the progression of Alzheimer’s disease to hippocampus size. Stress also inhibits the ability to regenerate new blood cells, which may age a person psychologically as well as physically.
Impairs Immune System
While the immune system is preoccupied dealing with the buildup of inflammation caused by stress, it leaves the door wide open for infection and other illnesses to take over. Stress makes it harder for the body to recover from disease. According to the American Psychological Association, stress impairs the ability to recover from a heart attack. Research shows that stress affects the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from foreign invaders that enter the body such as positions, drugs, toxins, and viruses. A weakened brain-barrier leaves the brain vulnerable to infection and impairment.
Revere Health Approximately seventy percent of the immune system lives in the gut; therefore, when it is affected, so is the digestive system. Stress has been linked to gastrointestinal symptoms including cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. Stress can also worsen gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and Ulcerative colitis. High levels of cortisol have been linked to an increase in unhealthy foods such as salt, fat, and sugar, which may also impact digestive health. The digestive system is often referred to as the “second brain,” meaning that stress may affect the gastrointestinal system similar to the way it affects the brain.
Stress might not be something that can be studied under a microscope like a bacterial infection, but its symptoms might cause an increase of pain in the body that is surely felt. Research shows a connection between chronic stress and the severity of pain. It is most common in the form of joint pain, headaches, and muscle pain. Stress may also make other painful conditions worse, such as back pain and arthritis, and it increases the frequency of tension headaches.
Stress causes mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and anger, which can have an adverse impact on personal and professional relationships. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, stress disrupts serotonin levels, which is known as the “feel-good” hormone responsible for causing feelings of happiness. People who are stress often feel helpless, overwhelmed and out of control. Stress management training has been shown to reduce the effects of stress on the body. Exercise and meditation are also helpful.
Stress may cause behavioral changes that lead to addiction as a coping mechanism. People with chronic stress may turn to alcoholism, drug use, or food addictions to temporarily raise their serotonin and dopamine levels. Elevated hormonal levels will soon run out, leaving the person feeling worse than before and craving a new way to feel good again. Stress may cause an increase in addictions such as gambling, watching television, and playing video games instead of dealing with stress in a healthy manner.
Stress affects men and women differently. Most women report a decreased in sexual desire while men who are stressed may have trouble with erectile dysfunction. Prolonged stress may also affect fertility in women and worsen premenstrual symptoms. A woman who experiences prolonged stress during pregnancy is more likely to have a miscarriage or premature birth. A woman’s stress levels during pregnancy have also been linked to how infants respond to stress themselves after they are born.
Unhealthy Hair, Teeth, And Nails
Stress causes hormonal imbalances that may affect blood flow to the skin, which can negatively influence the appearance of teeth, skin, and hair. Studies have linked stress to skin conditions such as eczema, acne, hives, psoriasis, and rosacea. Stress may also contribute to hair loss, dull hair, gum disease, and frail, brittle nails, as well as thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism, which may result in dry or oily skin. Hair that falls out easily is a sign of stress.