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Constant stress can lead to serious consequences

By Charles Hopkins Published 08/8/2006 | Health

Nature has equipped our body with stress hormones like cortisol to fight stress. These are released whenever the body faces a stressful situation, making the individual alert and focused, and better positioned to fight stress. However, continuous exposure to stress can have a detrimental effect on the overall well being of an individual. His physical and mental functioning can get affected as also his sense of balance.

The release of stress hormones is controlled by the hypothalamicpituitary gland. The hyperactivity of this gland can result in hormonal imbalances that can result in various psychological and physical disorders. Certain adverse health conditions can be fatal also.

Serotonin is an important chemical that is responsible for heightening the feeling of well being in a person. A high level of cortisol reduces the level of serotonin in the body. Due to this the person starts feeling more irritable, anxious, frustrated and unhappy. Such kind of behavior can only accentuate stress problems.

Stress is closely related to heart disorders and ailments. Undue stress constricts the arteries and arterioles thereby reducing the blood flow. This can lead to complications like heart attacks and stroke. Sometimes the blood tends to become viscous which increases the chances of heart blocks. An increase in the heart rate and sometimes a variation in the heart rhythm can also be observed.

The other system that gets affected is the gastrointestinal system. Stressed out persons are vulnerable to increased gastrointestinal infections, peptic ulcers, eating disorders and bloating. The irritable bowel syndrome, which is characterized with bloating of the large intestine and spastic movements of the colon, can worsen due to stress. The common eating disorders noticed are bulimia and anorexia. Weight gain and loss are also closely linked to stress.

Stress considerably reduces our immunity levels. We become more susceptible to common cold and flu infections. We also take longer to be cured. This is because the white blood cell count is considerably reduced due to stress. The rate of HIV activation in stress prone people is more when compared to HIV relaxed people. There is no conclusive evidence between stress and cancer initiation though work is being done in this field.

Chronic stress and hypertension are related. Often excessive workload and other pressures result in hypertension. According to a study women are more susceptible to hypertension than men.

Stress also alters the sleeping patterns resulting in sleep deprivation and other disorders. Insomnia is very common among high ranked business executives since they follow no regular pattern of sleep. The person tends to wake up at odd times and is usually tired and frustrated early in the morning. His focusing and analyzing abilities are also affected.

More scientists are linking sexual dysfunctions with stress. Chronic stress lowers the levels of sex hormones released in the body, thereby lowering the sexual capabilities of a person. Stress during pregnancy can affect the overall development of the child. There is a high incidence of miscarriage and low weight births.

These are serious health issues. An individual can suffer badly if he ignores them.