First Health Associates discusses the top 5 stress-related illnesses. Chronic stress can lead to disease. What happens when the body is under ongoing stress? Stress is a fact of life. Our bodies have a built-in response to stress known as fight or flight.
Our recent article, What Stress Does to the Body, addressed the potentially harmful effects of chronic stress. Stress can trigger a cascade of emotional and physical reactions in the body. Your body’s natural response to stressful situations is known as “fight or flight.” During this response, the body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that set your body into reaction mode. These hormones cause physical reactions in the body such as: rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, sweating, dizziness, or difficulty breathing.
However, chronic stress can keep these hormones levels elevated, which in turn can have serious emotional and physical consequences. It’s not the stress itself causing the problem. Stress is the trigger that can lead to these negative health outcomes. Stress can aggravate existing conditions and make them worse. Furthermore, many people adopt unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress. Behaviors such as overeating, smoking and drinking inevitably lead to health issues.
STRESS IS A TRIGGER; TOP 5 STRESS-RELATED ILLNESSES
The top 5 stress-related illnesses include:
- Heart Disease — Further research into how stress contributes to heart disease is being done. However, there’s no question that many stress-management habits such as overeating, smoking, and drinking increase the risk of heart disease.
- Obesity — Research shows that people who are stressed tend to store more fat in the belly. Belly fat, or visceral fat that builds up around the abdominal organs, has been linked to increased risk of serious diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia.
- Gastrointestinal Issues — The gut and the brain are intrinsically connected. The gut is controlled by the central nervous system. When the body goes into fight or flight mode, the increased cortisol level can affect the digestive system. For example, it can increase the acid in your stomach causing indigestion; make you feel nauseous; or cause diarrhea or constipation.
- Diabetes — While stress doesn’t cause diabetes, it can exacerbate the condition for people with the disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, stress can alter the blood glucose level in two ways. First, when the body is under stress and in fight or flight mode, the increase in the stress hormones can directly alter blood glucose levels. Furthermore, under stress, some people forget to take care of themselves. Eating poorly, exercising less or forgetting to monitor glucose levels can be dangerous for people with diabetes.
- Depression/Anxiety — Ongoing, chronic stress not only raises the stress hormones, it is also known to reduce the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine which have been linked to depression.
MANAGE STRESS TO STAY HEALTHY
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Fortunately, for many people, stress can be managed. Finding strategies such as yoga, physical activity or reading can help reduce stress levels. First Health Associates’ integrative team of providers offers an array of stress-management modalities that can help you take control of your stress.
Since 1981, First Health Associates has been providing exceptional health care to residents of Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect, Schaumburg, Buffalo Grove, Rolling Meadows, Palatine, Elk Grove and Des Plaines. First Health is an integrative medicine practice that offers: Medical Care; Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine; Counseling and Behavioral Therapy; and Chiropractic Care.
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