We all know that failing to exercise or having a poor diet can negatively affect your health. However, many people don’t consider how high levels of stress and anxiety can impact your well-being. Stress can actually put you at risk for developing certain symptoms, conditions and diseases. It can even worsen the symptoms you already have due to heart or lung disease. Here’s what you need to know about stress and your health:
Harmful Stress Levels
It’s safe to say that we all have some level of stress in our lives. Between work, bills, and family life, stress is unavoidable. Interestingly, a little bit of stress is actually our body’s way of keeping us alert and driven. It’s a natural response to stimulus and a way to keep us on our toes. However, it’s when we have too much stress that our health is affected.
When stress is creating symptoms that are detrimental to our well-being, we need to take action. Stress can have real physical effects on the body that lead to significant health issues if not controlled. Individuals who experience high stress levels throughout the day should take steps to lower stress levels and reduce symptoms as soon as possible.
What Causes Stress?
Stress can be brought on by a number of things. Some people have high-pressure jobs with challenging duties and long hours. Others may find themselves struggling in their personal life with a significant other, children or friends. An inability to pay bills or perform well in school can trigger stress for many individuals. A traumatic event or sudden death of a loved one can also bring on high levels of stress.
From a more scientific perspective, stress signals come from the release of stress hormones, known as cortisol and epinephrine, by the hypothalamus in the brain. Adrenaline may also be released, which will elevate your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. These stress hormones tell your body to increase blood sugar and puts your muscles on high alert, also known as the fight-or-flight response.
Symptoms of Stress
How do you know if you’re experiencing dangerous levels of stress or are simply feeling anxious? According to Mayo Clinic , here are some common physical effects and symptoms of stress that can negatively impact your health:
High blood pressure
Muscle tension or pain
Change in sex drive
In addition to effects on the body, stress can also have a major impact on a person’s mood and behavior, including:
Overeating or undereating
Lack of motivation or focus
Irritability and anger
Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs
If stress is causing you to experience these physical or behavioral symptoms, you are putting a strain on your health. It may be time to consult a professional to help prevent further or more serious health issues, like a heart attack or stroke.
Effects of Long-Term Stress
Unfortunately, many people suffer from chronic stress levels every day. When stress goes unchecked for a long time, symptoms can worsen and result in serious functional health problems. Frequently, long-term effects of stress include heart disease, diabetes and obesity, which can be difficult to manage or reverse. In addition, many people experience digestive issues, like ulcers and severe heartburn.
Depression is also a very real result of long-term stress. Depression is a mental disorder characterized by persistent negative feelings, lack of interest in activities or social interaction, decrease in energy levels and changes in how a person behaves. On its own, depression can be incredibly detrimental to a person’s health. However, coupled with chronic stress, it will require clinical diagnosis and treatment to keep it under control.
Tips to Manage Your Stress
The good news is that stress is manageable if you have the right tools, resources and support. If you try these steps to manage your stress, you could save yourself from health problems down the road.
Exercise regularly. Getting enough exercise not only helps your cardiovascular and lung health, but it can also improve your mood exponentially. It’s a great way to release stress.
Recognize your triggers. Knowing what causes your stress can help you avoid it. Be observant, so you know when you’re experiencing stress. Then, try to steer clear of those situations if you can.
Give yourself time to relax. Find time throughout the day to take a deep breath and relax. You can even try relaxing activities like meditation, muscle relaxation, yoga, reading or journaling.
Have a support system. It’s so important to stay connected with the people who care about you, so you have emotional support when you feel overwhelmed. Keep in touch with family, friends, and people in your community.
Set your priorities. Deciding what to take on and what can wait can help you manage your stress levels. Set clear priorities for yourself and remember that you can’t always do it all.
Take control of your health. Stress levels are often connected to underlying health issues. One thing you can do to help is taking control of your health. If you are experiencing symptoms of stress, get ahead of them with a healthier lifestyle, regular visits with your doctor for key health exams, and preventative scans.
It’s crucial to manage stress because it can have a negative impact on your health. Being proactive and getting ahead of stress symptoms before they become major issues is essential to living a long and healthy life. Learn more about low-dose preventative CT scans, including our heart CT scan with calcium score, lung CT scan, full body CT scan and virtual colonoscopy, by contacting the team at Preventative Diagnostic Center in Las Vegas.
Dr. John J. Pierce is the Medical Director at Preventative Diagnostic Center. He is Board-certified in Emergency Medicine as well as Board-certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He received his medical training from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, in Pomona California. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition to his regular practice, Dr. Pierce serves as a Tactical Physician with the Las Vegas SWAT team.