A Answers (4)
Mehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answeredStress is toxic. It leads to wear and tear on the body, which in turn can play a role in the development of such conditions as obesity, type-2 diabetes, brain atrophy, heart disease, loss of sexual function, high blood pressure, loss of muscle and bone strength, suppression of the body's immune system, and depression. By taking time to de-stress every day, you are not only helping yourself in the moment, but you are taking steps towards a longer, healthier life.
When we are stressed, the body releases steroids that increase our heart rate and improve our ability to deal with an immediate threat. Chronic release of these steroids however, lowers our body's defense against infection and other illness. It can also result in poor sleep, which causes yet more stress. Chronic stress is harmful to our immune system, heart and mental well-being.
Intermountain Healthcare answeredToo much stress can take a toll on your health and your life. It can cause anxiety, fear, anger, distraction and depression. It can lead to relationship difficulties and decrease your quality of life. It can also slow or limit your recovery from heart surgery or heart attack. Stress doesn't just affect you mentally. It can also cause physical symptoms that can be harmful to your heart over time. These include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Shallow and rapid breathing
- Increased adrenaline
- Elevated blood cholesterol and blood sugar
- Hardening of the arteries
- Lack of oxygen to the heart muscle
- Formation of blood clots
- Heart rhythm problems
When you think about stress, you should think about the adrenal glands. Stress takes many forms both physical and mental: dealing with a divorce, recovering from a broken bone or fighting an infection. Just getting through the day requires the body to deal with many stressors.
Each adrenal gland has an outer layer called the cortex and an inner layer called the medulla which each produce different hormones. The inner layer or medulla produces epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones are part of the ‘fight or flight’ response. They work together to give the body the sudden burst of energy that’s needed in times of emergency.
The outer layer, or adrenal cortex, produces substances including cortisol. Cortisol, or hydrocortisone, is the main human stress hormone. Cortisol helps mediate and deal with stress, appetite, energy, digestion, joint movement, inflammation and pain, decreases allergies and fever, enhances the immune system, and aids in the stabilization of blood sugar.
Small increases in cortisol levels can be beneficial and can help with energy levels, mental clarity and immune system function. When we encounter a stressful event, our pupils dilate, our focus improves, breathing deepens, appetite is suppressed and our digestive system shuts off temporarily. At the same time, cortisol and adrenaline are released, which help mobilize carbohydrates and fat for immediate energy. Once the stressor has passed, adrenaline returns to normal but cortisol remains elevated to increase our appetite because our body assumes that we’ve physically exerted ourselves and need to replenish our energy reserves by consuming a lot of calories. This coping mechanism has been vital to survival throughout our existence.
Modern stressors don’t require fighting or fleeing or otherwise engaging in physical activity to survive. Another change is that in the past, stress was typically infrequent and short-lived. Unfortunately, in today’s busy world, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress. The adrenal glands produce more cortisol to keep up with the demand, but after a while, the gland is working just as hard, but producing less cortisol. This can lead to adrenal fatigue and a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems.