Health Effects of Stress

It is now considered a well-established fact that stress can be a trigger or important factor in a variety of physical symptoms and diseases processes. There is abundant evidence of this link in the medical literature as well as in current medical practices. For example:

  • Medical research suggests that up to 70-80 percent of all illness and disease is stress-related, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Every week, 95 million Americans suffer some kind of stress related symptoms for which they take medication.
  • Evidence shows chronic stress can lower immunity and make people more susceptible to infections. Conversely, stress-reduction strategies, such as meditation, relaxation, and exercise, have been shown to help reverse this effect (e.g., by increasing the number of infection-fighting T cells and feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the body) and prevent disease.
  • Stress has been shown to contribute to the development of heart disease and high blood pressure. As a result of those findings, most heart programs incorporate stress  management and exercise, and stress reduction now plays a very prominent role in both the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Sudden stress increases the pumping action and rate of the heart and causes the  arteries to constrict, thereby posing a risk for blocking blood flow to the heart.
  • Skin doctors have found that many skin conditions, such as hives and eczema, are related to stress.
  • Stress is thought to be a common cause of everyday aches, pains, and health problems, such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, diarrhea, sleep loss, and loss of sex drive. Stress also appears to stimulate appetite and contribute to weight gain.
  • A 20-year study conducted by the University of London concluded that unmanaged reactions to stress were a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than either cigarette smoking or high cholesterol foods.
  • Stress may signal the body to release fat into the bloodstream, raising blood-cholesterollevels, at least temporarily.
  • In women, chronic stress may reduce estrogen levels, which are important for cardiac health.
  • Prolonged stress can disrupt the digestive system, irritating the large intestine and .causing diarrhea, constipation, cramping, and bloating. Excessive production of  digestive acids in the stomach may cause a painful burning.
  • Asthma patients are adversely affected by high levels of mental or emotional stress.
  • Stress may cause menstrual disorders and recurrent vaginal infections in women.
  • High cortisol levels, resulting from chronic and excessive stress have been associated with the following conditions: impaired digestion, metabolism and mental functioning, lowered immunity, suppressed thyroid functioning, blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia, decreased bone density and muscle tissue, slowed down wound healing and normal cell regeneration.