How Does Stress Affect Health?

Dr. Peter Lind
Published on: September 2012
Your body is constantly trying to re-balance itself to maintain homeostasis. If everything goes correct and your stress is minimal you will have a happy environment of good chemistry, temperature, and pressure. You will be in a low stress zone. It's when things go wrong that will affect your stress and health.
how does stress affect health,body rebalance
Stress and Health

If you have stress that is extreme or very unusual and long-lasting, the normal ways of keeping your body in balance will not be enough to find stress relief. You may find that your response to stress has triggered a wide-ranging set of body changes called General Adaptation Syndrome - a systematic cycle of breakdown. This has been adapted from Hans Selye's groundbreaking work about the stress cycle.
You will be pulled out of balance and your body will show entire varieties of signs of stress.
Let's look at the progression of stress; don't get bogged down in the details.

Stage I. Alarm Reaction - this is created by a stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal medulla. This first stage is to be immediate and short-lived. The endocrine system releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that rush throughout the body. Tremendous amounts of glucose and oxygen are sent to the muscles and organs. Your brain is activated, your heart pumps furiously, and fat and protein are released from your iver. Breathing rate increases, sweat increases, and digestion decreases. You are ready for stress!

You can have positive health effects of stress when it's managed and short-lived; and this is the challenge in life.

All of these responses in this alarm reaction are designed to increase circulation rapidly, make energy, and decrease all nonessential activities. But if the stress is great enough, body reactions may not be able to cope and severe illness or death can and often result. We see this all the time and wonder what happened; "the person was so healthy." Apparently not.

Many times people have sweaty hands or rapid heart rate and high blood pressure when there is no immediate stress. This is certainly a continuation of the alarm reaction stage. When the body is still in a hyper- vigilant state and has not turned down its reaction this is known as the stress response and this will continue indefinitely. How well is your heart rate and blood pressure?
As stress continues and your reactions to it you move into the next stage of the stress response.
Stage II. Resistance Reaction - as stress continues the brain secretes more hormones as does the adrenal gland. More protein is broken down into sugar to be used for energy. Blood sugar levels return to normal. Blood pH returns to normal but blood pressure stays high mostly because of water retention. More of the stress hormone cortisol is released and leads to an increase in fat around organs...the gut.

All of us have gone through the resistance stage. Some people however, continue through this for long periods of time. If the stress is severe or the resistance stage continues, the body gives up and moves into the third and final stage.

To know more on stress and read Stage III in our next edition.
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