Stress and Its Impact on Health – The Master Malady of All
Stress in a medical context is defined as a physical or psychological factor that creates bodily and/or mental tension. Stress factors can be external, coming from the environment, psychological or social situations, or internal, due to illness or a medical procedure). Oftentimes stress is accompanied by other health issues. Stress by itself can also induce health problems, and certainly aggravates existing ones. As a matter of fact, an estimated 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects related to stress.
“Stress not only makes us feel awful emotionally, it can exacerbate just about any health problem you can think of,” says Jay Winner, MD, author of Take the Stress out of Your Life.
Stress causes cortisol levels in the body to increase. One of the long-term effects of high cortisol is a tendency towards central adiposity, i.e. fat around the abdomen. Abdominal fat contributes to Type II diabetes mellitus, in addition stress-linked adverse eating habits such as binge eating, lead to high blood glucose levels and subsequent insulin resistance. Stress has additionally been associated with elevated plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body leading to heart diseases as well.
Headaches and migraines are a common outcome of stress. Gastrointestinal diseases may manifest themselves as well in patients with chronic stress; ulcers and inflammatory conditions are worsened in such people. In patients of GERD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), symptoms are triggered by stress. According to studies, children whose parents suffer chronic stress are at substantially higher risk of developing asthma.
In Alzheimer’s disease, brain lesions are promoted by stress and some studies suggest that effective stress management may have a role in slowing down progression of this disease. Stress is said to eat away a person’s youth as fast as fire eats wood, an allusion to the fact that stress can accelerate the aging process of our cells.
Consequently managing and controlling stress is an important part of taking care of one’s health. A stressed out person needs to first identify their source of stress then develop strategies to counteract it. Dealing with negative emotions like anger and anxiety in a constructive way is challenging but possible, with the help of counseling or other support systems. Finally lifestyle modifications useful in stress management include adequate sleep and eating habits, fluid intake and physical exercise.
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