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Stress and health

It is well known that if you would like to live long, you should avoid stress and tension as much as possible. At the same time you should maintain healthy lifestyle to be able to handle the stressful situations because stress can contribute to several health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and other less serious illnesses such as colds. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body including immune system, reproductive functions, aging complex, nervous system.

Social studies also discovered that stress can contribute to alcoholism, obesity, smoking, depression, drug addiction, cigarette use and other harmful behaviors. Scientists discovered that long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

As nobody can avoid all stressful situations in our modern life, better to be prepared and try to survive the stress healthier. Every woman should know very well how stress “works” and what are stress related health risks.

Health response to stress

Stress and Health

Every human body has stress response system which is starting to work immediately after we recognize the stressor (threat, trauma, negative thoughts, accidents, death, and imaginary threats).

Healthy human body responses to stress involve few components:

Brain stress response.
Brain is responsible for immediate stress response (kind of mediator) – brain recognize the “threat” (stressor), send signals to adrenal glands (medulla) and trigger production of adrenalin (epinephrine) and noradrenalin (norepinephrine) from adrenal glands.

Hypothalamus stress response.
Hypothalamus is a very specific brain structure with big number of small nuclei with a variety of functions. Main and most important function of hypothalamus is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system (through hypophysis). Once brain already recognized the “threat” (stressor), the hypothalamus triggers the slower maintenance response by sending specific signals to adrenal glands (cortex) to release cortisol and some other “stress” hormones.

Nerve system stress response.
Body stress response is impossible without nerve system (thousands of nerves) – all stress signals and biological responses are happening in the body through nerves. Nerve system insures all stress responses including increased attention, focused reactions, reduced pain perception, physical readiness (muscles increased energy), concentrated abilities and changed behaviors.

Nerve system responsible also for body quick reaction through the sympathetic nervous system. Body quick stress reactions include increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as redirected blood flow to the heart, muscles and brain (away from the gastrointestinal system). This is how body stress response releases fuel (glucose and fatty acids) needed for dealing with stress – well known “fight or flight” body stress response.

Above mentioned combined body stress responses maintain the internal balance (homeostasis) and optimize energy production and quick reactions (stress responses).

STRESS and HEALTH symptoms

It is well known that many health problems are caused or exacerbated by stress.

Here are most common and possible symptoms which could be observes during or after stress:

Behavioral symptomsChanges to usual behavior, Irritability, Crying, Agitation, Withdrawing from others, Increased substance intake (alcohol, caffeine, sugar), Excessive humor or silence, Increased or decreased eating (obesity or anorexia).

Cognitive symptoms – Reduced concentration, Difficulty making decisions, Forgetfulness, Inability to think straight,Distressing dreams, Flashbacks.

Emotional symptoms – Guilt, Anxiety, Fear, Grief, Shock, Anger, Suicidal thoughts, Feeling isolated, Feeling helpless, Depression.

Physical symptoms – Nausea, Vomiting, Upset stomach (digestive problems), Rapid heart rate, Muscle aches, Pain, Sleeping dysfunctions, Skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis), Fatigue, Headaches.

Besides many stress related symptoms, there are several diseases which also could be considered as stress related health consequences – Cardiovascular disease, Heart attack, High blood pressure (hypertension), Obesity, Migraine & tension headaches, Insomnia (sleep disorders), Diabetes, Ulcers, Asthma, TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Pain), Cancer and few diseases of immune system.

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