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How stress affects your health

By Charles Hopkins Published 08/8/2006 | Health

Stress has an adverse affect on your health. Among other things, it can cause sleeplessness, anxiety and frustration. But these are only indicators of the things to come. In the long run, stress can cause chronic disorders that can affect your physical, emotional and mental well being.

Stress has a damaging effect on the working of the heart. Most patients of cardiac disorders are victims of chronic stress. Stress increases the blood pressure thereby indirectly putting more pressure on the heart muscles. Over a period of time heart muscles can become weak and their pumping ability can reduce drastically. This can affect the functioning of different organs, especially the brain.

Stress also increases the amount of LDL (low density lipoproteins) in the body. LDL is responsible for fat deposition in arteries and veins and leads to atherosclerosis or clogging of arteries. This makes you vulnerable to angina, strokes and heart attacks.

Most people take to drinking, smoking or snorting of drugs as a means to escape from stress without realizing the damage they are causing to their body. It is an invitation to disaster.

The most noticeable effect of stress is the increase in the pulse rate and the blood pressure. Today stress can be cited as one of the major reasons for people suffering from hypertension by the time they cross thirties.

Stress can also lead to a decrease in the white blood cell count due to which your immunity level may drop considerably. You can become vulnerable to bacterial and other microbial infections. Even minor viral infections can take a longer time to be cured.

Besides this, stress can lead to muscle spasms and cramps, and affect the digestion process. Constipation and diarrhea are common gastrointestinal infections. There is a tendency of swelling of the colon and accumulation of gas among stress patients.

Bacterial infections result in two severe diseases that are Necrotic fasciitis and Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome. Necrotic fasciitis mainly causes degeneration of the muscles, fat deposits and tissues. Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome results in a sudden sharp drop in the blood pressure which affects the functioning of the kidney, liver and lungs.

Chronic stress can result in serious asthmatic attacks that can be fatal in some cases. You can also suffer from body pain, shoulder and neck pain, back pain and migraines. Though it has not yet been proved scientifically that stress results in cancer and other neurodegenerative diseases, it does increase their intensity and severity. It also accelerates the aging process. 

Mood swings and emotional outbursts are part of stress. Depending upon the stressor and the intensity of the stress there are very high chances that you can suffer from mental tension and depression. Feelings of insecurity, frustration and dissatisfaction are common.

It is therefore important to combat stress early. Long walks and physical exercise are useful stress busters. You can also consult your doctor who can put you on medication to reduce the effects of stress.  You can even try alternate therapy like Yoga and Acupressure.