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How Does Stress Affect

Your Health?

  • Did you know, many addictions are linked to a stressful lifestyle? Any addiction can be a means of an escape or temporary way of "switching off" - but be aware, they do not address the underlying problem.

  • According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 2/3 of office visits to family doctors are for stress-related symptoms.

  • According to one study, middle-aged men under severe stress who lacked emotional support were five times more likely to die within seven years, than those who had the same amount of stress but had close personal ties.

  • A recent study indicated that stress-management programs may reduce the risk of heart problems, including heart attack, by up to 75% in people with heart disease.

  • Stress-related mental disorders have been called the fastest-growing occupational (work-related) disease in the U.S.

To fully understand how stress affect the body, imagine living as the cave man did. They were constantly threatened by hungry animals such as wolves or saber-toothed tigers and they had to react instantly, either by fighting the beasts or running away. Under this sudden stress, your body will get a burst of exceptional strength and endurance as your body pumps out stress hormones:

  • your heat speeds up

  • blood flow to your brain and muscles increases up to 400%

  • your digestion stops (so it doesn't use up energy that's needed elsewhere)

  • your muscle tension increases

  • you breathe faster, to bring more oxygen to your muscles

No doubt we still need this "fight or flight" response to help us in emergencies. But most of the time this response will not help us, yet those stress hormones still flood our system. And if you are under stress frequently, it can harm your physical health.

Recent evidence indicates that the physical changes associated with stress may contribute to the leading causes of death - heart disease and cancer.

The effects of stress include the following:

  • cause chronic fatigue, digestive upsets, headaches, and back pain

  • affects the blood cells that help you fight off infection, so you are more likely to get colds and other diseases

  • increase blood pressure and can increase the risk for stoke

  • make an asthma attack worse

  • triggers behaviours that contribute to death and disability, such as smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, and overeating

  • lead to diminished sexual desire and an inability to achieve orgasm

  • makes it harder to take other steps to improve health, such as giving up smoking or making changes in diet

While unchecked stress is undeniably damaging, there are many things you can do to reduce or manage your stress.

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