reviewed 6/20/2019

Stress & the body

When you're stressed, nearly every part of your body reacts to the pressure. The effects can be immediate or develop over time.

Brain. 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.

Muscles. Muscle tension can lead to tension-type and migraine headaches.

Lungs. Breathing harder may lead to hyperventilation and other breathing problem, which in some people may cause asthma flare-ups or panic attacks.

Heart and blood vessels. 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 in the long term.

Esophagus. If you overeat, smoke or drink alcohol to cope with stress, you may get heartburn or acid reflux. Being tired could also make the discomfort worse.

Stomach. Stress can lead to nausea or stomach pain. Intense stress may even cause vomiting. 

Bowels. Your digestion may be altered and you may have diarrhea or constipation. Stress may also trigger symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Reproductive system. 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 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.

Sources: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; American Psychological Association; National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

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