How extreme stress affects your body
Stress doesn’t strike the same twice. It can be the fluttering anxiety in your stomach, of that heavy feeling in the chest. It’s the shortness of breath before breaking down, and the bubbling in your throat when your to-do list increases.
You know these situations probably better than you’d like to. Whatever the reason, stress is not good for you. According to a recent research, extreme stress drastically increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (21%) and other dementia (15%).
Although the stress factors for humans have evolved over time, the body still has to catch up. When you see the empty bank account, you activate the body’s sympathetic nervous system, creating a fight-or-flight response. The heart races, cortisol rushes through your body and more and more oxygen is pumped to the brain to prepare you for the fight you’re facing. This happens every time you encounter stress.
Here’s what it does to your body and organs:
A change in your memory is not triggered by stress only – according to a research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, there’s a link between high levels of cortisol and short-term memory less in older people.
Sudden stress might cause you to become temporarily pale after redirecting blood from your face to muscles that might need it. But constant low-grade stress over time can cause your skin to age faster; stir up rashes, rosacea, and psoriasis thanks to a histamine release; and increase oil production (read: acne).
Both chronic stress and repeated traumatic incidents (called acute stress by doctors) lead to inflammation in the coronary arties, which are responsible for heart attacks. The constant uptick of the heartbeat in those with chronic stress also takes a toll on the heart’s ability to pump blood, upping the risk for hypertension and stroke.
Stress causes quickened breathing, and asthma patients can be hit with an attack due to stress. People suffering from emphysema can have trouble getting enough oxygen in this case.
Stress fat exists and this has been proven in scientific studies. According to one study, women who experienced stressful events during the day before a meal burned fewer calories than people who weren’t stressed. Annually, this can amount to 11 extra pounds.
Being constantly stressed is hard on the immune system, which can easily become suppressed, increasing the risk of many diseases.
Meditation is one of the best stress reduction techniques. It’s an umbrella term for practices like mindfulness, mantras, guided meditation, yoga and deep-breathing techniques. Every one of these practices can reduce stress, aid weight loss and fight diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
If you stressed now, try Dr. Weil’s 4:7:8 breathing technique – he calls it “the natural tranquilizer” for your nervous system.