How Stress Affects Your Physical Health

We often hear about stress, its causes and cures, and how everyday stress is part of living. Most people know how stress affects our mental state and attitudes, but few are aware of how it impacts our physical health and well-being. 

At Columbia Internal Medicine in East Greenbush, Albany, Valatie areas, New York, Dr. Padma Sripada wants her patients to be aware of the effects of stress, including how it can affect long-term health. She offers her expert advice on how to manage stress for greater mental and physical health.  

The basics of stress

Stress is part of your body’s natural design and is meant to facilitate your response to situations that may pose danger. Often called your “flight or fight” response, stress is caused when your brain stimulates the release of stress hormones. This natural ramping up of your body processes makes your muscles tense, your heart race, and your breathing speed up. 

All these changes prepare you to react suddenly and decisively to a situation in which you may be harmed. Your body is prepared to fight off or flee from danger. This is meant to be a temporary response that naturally subsides when the danger has passed or is removed.

Stress and your physical health

When this temporary natural condition becomes a constant weight, it can begin to affect your physical and mental health. In fact, chronic stress can impact virtually all of your bodily systems.

Work or home issues can cause chronic stress, increasing your chances of developing recurrent headaches, digestive issues, and ongoing muscle tension. Those who suffer from chronic stress are at a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions. Some of the more common include:

Depression and anxiety

When you’re constantly under stress, it can break you down emotionally and lead to issues with anxiety and depression.

Heartburn

Stress often increases your stomach’s acid production, which can worsen existing heartburn or cause it to occur more often and with greater intensity.

High blood pressure

Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict, elevating your blood pressure for the fight or flight response. Constantly elevated blood pressure levels increase your risk of suffering irregular heart rates, damaged blood vessels, and heart attacks.

High blood sugar

Stress causes your liver to dump extra sugar into your blood to help create a burst of energy. Chronic stress can increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which causes and complicates other long-term health problems

Insomnia

Any level of stress can make sleep difficult. Disrupted sleep patterns can result in insomnia, which is in itself stressful, and can lead to other chronic health conditions.

Sexual dysfunction

Chronic stress can have an impact on the sexual health of both men and women. Stress wears your body systems out, making you overly tired. This chronic fatigue results in a reduced sex drive. Out-of-control stress in men can cause erectile dysfunction and fertility issues.

Stress hormones can interfere with a woman’s monthly cycle and even cause it to stop completely, and this can lead to infertility.

Shortness of breath

Stress causes tension in the muscles,and that includes the ones that control your breathing, and this can lead to persistent shortness of breath.

Weakened immune system

Too much stress can break down your body’s natural defense system over time, weakening your immunity against infections and diseases.

Help for chronic stress

Dr. Sripada knows how stress can negatively impact your overall health and wellness, and so she works with her patients to help them learn stress-relieving techniques and practices for good health. These include: 

Dr. Sripada and her team can provide further guidance on these and other practices to help you maintain good health and manage stress. Call her Castleton office at 518-233-9630 or send a message online to schedule an appointment.

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