What stress actually does to your body
In the short term, stress can be advantageous, but when the body experiences it for too long it can damage the body’s organs and cells, asserts Dr Sharon Horesh MD.
In her Ted Ed video ‘How stress affects the body,’ Dr Horesh outlines the five ways a body can be affected by chronic stress, in addition to the more recognised ways such as acne, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, headaches, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.
Heart attack and stroke:
The hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released in to the blood stream by the adrenaline gland when a person experiences a stress response.
Adrenaline increases the heartbeat and blood pressure and in the long term can cause hypertension, while long term release of cortisol in the blood can lead to cholesterol plaque build-up in the arteries.
Both of these issues can lead to an increased chance of a heart attack or stroke.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and heart burn:
Stress also affects the intestinal nervous system, which can affect the way food is moved naturally moved through the gut and can lead to irritable bowel syndrome.
It can also increase the body’s sensitivity to acid in the gut, leading to heart burn.
Cortisol can increase a person’s appetite and cravings for comfort foods, which tend to be energy dense and carb-loaded, causing weight gain.
Increased risk of chronic diseases:
High levels of cortisol causes visceral fat weight gain. This kind of fat releases hormones and immune system chemicals that can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease.
Increased risk of infections and slower healing:
Chronic stress can deplete the effectiveness of immune cells and increase the risk of infection. This can also slow down the rate that the body heals.
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