HEALTHMATTERSBack to HealthMatters main
The effects of stress are not always temporary. Find out how it can impact your body in both the short and long term.
Stress hurts: This is your body under pressure
When you're stressed, nearly every part of your body reacts to the pressure. The effects can be immediate or develop over time.
THE RISKS ARE REAL
Let's take a closer look at the harm stress can do.
BLOOD VESSELS & HEART
A rapid heart rate dilates blood vessels, which can raise blood pressure. That can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and chronic high blood pressure.
You may become irritable or anxious or have problems remembering things. Stress can also make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Poor sleep may contribute to sleep disorders, such as sleepwalking and insomnia.
If you overeat, smoke or drink alcohol to cope with pressure in your life, you may get heartburn or acid reflux. Being tired from stress could also make your discomfort worse.
Stress can disturb your gut and digestion, leading to nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation.
Breathing harder may lead to hyperventilation and other breathing problems, which in some people may cause asthma flare-ups or panic attacks.
Muscle tension can lead to tension-type and migraine headaches.
Men with chronic stress may experience erectile dysfunction and a change in testosterone and sperm production. In women, stress may diminish sex drive and may also lead to irregular menstrual cycles.
EASE UP! DO YOUR BODY SOME GOOD
- Write down the causes of your stress.
- Look for areas where you can make changes.
- Seek support from friends and family.
- Don't skimp on sleep.
- Ask a mental health professional for help.
ARE YOU LONELY?
Friends and family help us cope with life and stress. Get a better idea of how you're doing when it comes to social ties—with this five-question assessment.
Plus: Pick up suggestions that might help.
Sources: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; American Psychological Association; National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse