For most people, stress is just a part of life. In fact, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 60 percent of respondents feel signs and symptoms of stress three or more days per week. Not only does chronic stress lead to mental anxiety, exhaustion and burnout—it can also cause many other physical health issues. Here’s a checklist of some of the physical symptoms of stress:
Hair loss. Stress doesn’t just make you want to pull your hair out, it can cause your hair to fall out on its own, too! Stress disrupts hormone production in the body, which can switch some active hair follicles into resting ones. The result: hair that falls out when washed or brushed.
Headache. People who have daily stressors can experience something known as a tension headache. This is when it feels like a dull ache or pressure is spreading across the forehead and temples. So, if you notice you are getting a headache during stressful circumstances, take a step back and give yourself a minute to calm down and breathe.
Asthma. For people with asthma, stress can worsen symptoms. That’s because the body enters a fight or flight state where blood pressure increases and the body releases adrenaline—two things that can lead to rapid breathing and trigger an asthma attack.
Heart disease. Two of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease—high blood pressure and high cholesterol—are linked to stress, according to the American Heart Association. The more regularly you feel stressed, the more of an impact it has on long-term heart health.
Weight gain. Chronic stress causes the body to go into a heightened state of awareness, which also causes an increase in cortisol levels. Recent studies have shown that in women, cortisol can cause the body to store excess belly fat. Too much cortisol can also increase insulin levels, which leads the body to crave fatty, sugary foods because it thinks it’s in a fight-or-flight situation and wants a quick energy source.
Poor gut health. Various studies have found chronic stress can lead to gut health complications like heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and even Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). In fact, a study found 12,653 people with GERD reported chronic stress as a lifestyle factor affecting their condition. Even more alarming, researchers have found gut bacteria may influence mental health. This is a chain reaction of sorts – stress causes poor gut health, and poor gut health causes poor mental health. This can include conditions like anxiety and depression.
Diabetes. The hormones released when stressed can raise blood glucose levels. Unfortunately, if you have diabetes, your body has trouble converting the abundance of glucose into usable energy. This ultimately causes a buildup in the blood stream and makes blood glucose levels tougher to control.
For more health-related information, check out these blogs:
- Sun Protection: Not Just for Your Skin
- The Surprising Connection Between Your Teeth and Overall Health
- Panic Attacks: What to Do If They Happen at Work
Photo Credit: Kat Smith
APRIL 24, 2018
by Duane DiFranco, MD
Topics: For You