5 Ways Stress Affects Your Body

Written by Dr. Veena Madhankumar and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team

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Too much stress not only affects your mental health, but affects your entire body, feelings, and behavior. It can result in various physical symptoms, such as heavy breathing, rapid heart rate, and a rise in blood pressure. This is how your body prepares and reacts to danger, which is the “fight or flight” response. A little stress is even considered good, as it prepares us for an emergency, but too much or prolonged stress can seriously affect your health.

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1) Stress and Mental Health

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Stress is capable of causing psychological and emotional strains, such as confusion, anxiety, and depression. Genetics and life experiences play a role in developing mental health disorders, but long-lasting stress also increases your risk. It is believed that the hormones that are released when you are stressed disrupt the serotonin levels, which is a brain chemical that contributes to happiness and affects our mood. This disruption can result in anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.

2) Stress and the Heart

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Prolonged stress can elevate your blood pressure, making you more prone to heart diseases. In people who already have a heart condition, too much stress can make the condition worse. It has also been found that too much stress can increase blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. In addition to stress, an unhealthy diet, smoking, and leading a sedentary lifestyle also affect your heart health.

 
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3) Stress and Sleep

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You might know how difficult it is to fall or stay asleep when you are stressed. Experiencing this once in a while might not adversely affect your health. But if you find it hard to sleep for more than three days a week, and if it is lasting more than a month (chronic insomnia), it will affect your behavior. Sleep deprivation can make you tired, irritable, and much more stressed. If left untreated, chronic insomnia might lead to depression, anxiety, heart failure, and other health problems.

4) Stress and the Immune System

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The immune system is made up of cells and proteins that protect the body against various infections and cancer. Multiple studies show that fewer white blood cells are found in people who are stressed. As white blood cells play a crucial role in fighting off infections, stressed individuals become more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections, including cold, flu, and COVID-19.

5) Stress and Weight Control

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If you are trying to lose weight, stress might make things extremely difficult for you. Most of us tend to eat and drink high-fat and sugary foods when we have a rough time. Cortisol, the stress hormone, affects your appetite and increases your craving for sweets and high-calorie foods. Cortisol may also make the body hold on the fat, making weight loss difficult. Make it a habit to snack on something healthy when you have cravings.

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