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The Impact Of Stress On Your Health

Have you ever been so stressed your stomach hurts? Have you ever gotten so upset you throw-up? Even children often cry so hard they physically make themselves ill. Granted this is a small example, but it’s an example of how your mind can literally control your health.

As defined in the book, "Measuring Stress: A Guide for Health and Social Scientists", stress is defined as, “a process in which environmental demands strain an organism’s adaptive capacity resulting in both psychological demands as well as biological changes that could place at risk for illness.”

Want to see more examples? A study called, “Life Event, Stress and Illness” states the following in regard to stress:

  • Studies have shown that short-term stress boosted the immune system, but chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that ultimately manifest an illness.

  • It raises catecholamine and suppressor T cells levels, which suppress the immune system. This suppression, in turn, raises the risk of viral infection.

  • Stress also leads to the release of histamine, which can trigger severe broncho-constriction in asthmatics.

  • Stress increases the risk for diabetes mellitus, especially in overweight individuals, since psychological stress alters insulin needs.

  • Stress also alters the acid concentration in the stomach, which can lead to peptic ulcers, stress ulcers or ulcerative colitis.

  • Chronic stress can also lead to plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis), especially if combined with a high-fat diet and sedentary living.

  • The correlation between stressful life events and psychiatric illness is stronger than the correlation with medical or physical illness.

  • The relationship of stress with psychiatric illness is strongest in neuroses, which is followed by depression and schizophrenia.

  • There is no scientific evidence of a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the immune system changes and the development of cancer. However, recent studies found a link between stress, tumour development and suppression of natural killer (NK) cells, which is actively involved in preventing metastasis and destroying small metastases.

Here’s also a wonderful graphic from the American Institute of Stress on the effects of stress on the body.

Clearly, there are a lot of stressors in our world. While certain stressful situations can be avoided, some cannot. Stressful situations at work, family drama, or health issues with friends take a toll on our bodies more than you realize.

  • Emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. (Life Event, Stress, and Illness)

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States estimates that stress accounts about 75% of all doctor visits.

  • This involves an extremely wide span of physical complaints including, but not limited to headache, back pain, heart problems, upset stomach, stomach ulcer, sleep problems, tiredness and accidents.

  • According to Occupational Health and Safety news and the National Council on compensation of insurance, up to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints.

According to the American Institute of Stress, the Top Causes of Stress in the U.S. are:

  1. Job Pressure - Co-Worker Tension, Bosses, Work Overload

  2. Money - Loss of Job, Reduced Retirement, Medical Expenses

  3. Health - Health Crisis, Terminal or Chronic Illness

  4. Relationships - Divorce, Death of Spouse, Arguments with Friends, Loneliness

  5. Poor Nutrition - Inadequate Nutrition, Caffeine, Processed Foods, Refined Sugars

  6. Media Overload - Television, Radio, Internet, E-Mail, Social Networking

  7. Sleep Deprivation - Inability to release adrenaline and other stress hormones

So what do we do in stressful situations? How can we diminish the impact it has on our bodies? I’ve listed some examples below, but the solutions to your stress are completely contingent on the individual. For example, someone with financial stress....

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