What does stress do to our bodies?

When we stress out, our brain floods our body with adrenaline, which triggers our fight-or-flight response.

This can be especially dangerous if we have high blood pressure. It already causes our blood to pump at a higher pressure, and when our heart rate increases - from stress - the heart tries to pump more high-pressure blood in less time, increasing the risk of heart damage.

Stress also makes us more prone to do unhealthy things - like eat the rest of the pumpkin pie, instead of simply having a small slice. Or, we skip our morning walk because we had too much eggnog the night before. Stress can be a double-edged sword. It can make us more vulnerable to risky behaviors and less likely to pursue healthy ones.

Jack E. Dawson Jr., MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Limited stress can motivate. It is our reactions to the stressful events and circumstances presented by life that wear on us the most. From early childhood, we take on behaviors of our families, even recycle negative ones. These behaviors can contribute to unhealthy choices, which, in turn, give birth to our habits that create risk factors and produce the inflammation that precedes disease. Unhealthy choices may include smoking, as well as higher consumption of salt, sugar and fat. These choices and habits create the risk factors, which, unless changed and controlled, result in the familiar diseases: coronary artery disease, hypertension and diabetes. Choosing change can break the vicious cycle, improving health and relationships.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Stress puts your body in high gear so you can swerve to avoid that close call on the highway or plow through a pile of paperwork to meet an impending deadline. In response to a stressor, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline, which increase your heart rate and blood pressure and leave you breathing more rapidly. You may also find yourself sweating. When stress becomes chronic, you may experience symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, and you may pay a price in the form of a weakened immune system, not to mention sour moods.

The link between stress and heart disease is not clear, but one thing’s for sure -- over-the-top stress can, over time, make heart disease risk factors such as hypertension and high cholesterol levels worse.

If you’re having a hard time handling stress, stress management classes may be the solution. They can provide you with techniques for coping with the stress in your life that you can't avoid.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.