Would you be surprised if I told you that approximately 60 to 80 percent of all doctor visits are due to stress-related health issues? Given the state of the economy, increased work demands, decreased job security along with never ending personal, family and social obligations, this staggering statistic isn’t so unbelievable. It’s no wonder that we’re flocking to physicians in record numbers looking for ways to handle the pressure overload.
Our bodies are designed to handle emergencies as they arise and then return to our natural, resting state when the danger is over. Any threat, real or imagined, causes our brains to stimulate our sympathetic nervous systems to make a series of changes to deal with the crisis. However, when we are chronically stressed, our adrenal glands continuously pump out adrenaline, corticoids and other hormones to handle the ordeal. Over time, our defenses begin to wear down. Burn out, which is defined as physical, cognitive and emotional exhaustion results.
Unrelenting stress can intensify, exacerbate or increase the risk of developing many serious health problems.
Seven conditions that are directly linked to stress are:
1. Cardiovascular Disease
The American Heart Association suggests that stress is among the top precursors of cardiovascular disease. Stress increases blood pressure, constricts blood vessels, raises cholesterol, triggers arrhythmias and speeds up rate at which blood clots. Sudden emotional stress can be a trigger for serious cardiac problems including heart attacks.
People with high levels of stress seem to store excess fat in the belly. Abdominal fat is a greater health risk than fat accumulation on the hips or thighs.
Stress plays a direct role in elevating the glucose levels of Type 2 diabetics.
4. Gastro-Intestinal Problems
Contrary to what you might have heard, stress does not cause ulcers. But the bad news is if you already suffer from ulcers, stress can make them worse. In addition, stress has also been linked to other GI conditions such as chronic heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
5. Decreased Immunity
Stress, particularly chronic stress can compromise our immune systems, making us more susceptible to catching bacterial and viral infections
6. Muscle Tension
When we are stressed, our muscles contract and become tense. Chronically tense muscles can lead to muscle spasms, cramping, facial or jaw pain, and back pain.
People who are stressed tend to neglect healthy practices. Instead they eat junk foods, drink excessively, smoke and avoid exercise. These negative behaviors tend to increase stress and raise the risk of developing major depression. It’s a vicious cycle.