Stress is a natural, hard-wired response from our bodies to help us deal with potentially serious or dangerous situations. Whether or not our lives are in danger, our brains release cortisol and adrenaline to get our hearts pumping faster and our lungs working quicker. Everyone will experience stress from time to time.
Small bouts of stress likely won’t cause long-term harm to your body but if you battle with stress on a daily basis you’re at risk for some more lasting damage. You’re probably familiar with the many ways stress takes a toll on your mood and behavior – mood swings, irritability, and feeling overwhelmed, to name a few. But how much do you know about the impact stress has on your body? Here are the top six stress-related health risks you should be aware of.
1. It can cause you physical pain
Muscle pain is common among people who are stressed out. Your muscles tighten up when you’re under stress to help you avoid injury, which makes it more difficult for you to relax, work out, or remedy your pain. If you spend a majority of your day sitting down to work, you probably experience back and shoulder pain regularly. Stress will amplify these aches, causing levels of discomfort that can interfere with your mood and productivity.
2. You’re more likely to experience potentially-fatal heart problems
Stress causes your heart to work harder, distributing more oxygen throughout your body in order to deal with whatever stressful situation you’re going through. Because of this, your blood pressure will rise, which puts you at more of a risk for a heart attack or stroke. ‘Broken heart’ syndrome or stress-induced cardiomyopathy is a painful reaction to a surge of stress hormones that primarily affects women and can lead to dangerous MINOCA attacks.
3. Stress exhausts you
Chronic stress leads to insomnia. When you’re stressed out, all you can think about is your massive to-do list, the problems you haven’t addressed, and the array issues that are occurring in your life. Stress-induced lack of sleep is an issue in and of itself, but it can lead to a snowball effect of other health issues. Prolonged insomnia puts you at risk for kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and stroke.
4. Stress takes a toll on your reproductive system
Frequent stress can cause members of both genders to lose interest in sex for long periods of time. It can cause erectile dysfunction and other fertility issues, interfering with a man’s testosterone levels and leading to an increased risk of a woman’s unborn child developing a variety of disorders. Chronic stress has the ability to wreak havoc on a women’s menstrual cycle, causing it to stop altogether, to be more painful, or to become irregular.
5. Digestive system issues can occur
Acid reflux and an upset stomach are both signs that stress is affecting your digestive system negatively. Stress increases your risk of developing ulcers and makes it more difficult for you to lose weight. The amount of extra glucose that your liver produces when you’re under stress will add up over time. Eventually, your body will not be able to process the excess and you’ll slowly grow your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
6. You’re more likely to get sick
People experiencing high levels of prolonged stress often suffer from an immune system that is weakened by the amount of stimulation it incurs from an influx of stress hormones. When your immune system is affected by stress, you’ll take longer to recover from illnesses. You’ll also be more vulnerable to infections and more likely to end up contracting the cold or flu than someone without high stress levels.