Stress is the most frequently used psychiatric term in the US. It is the go to word used to describe a host of physical and psychological responses the body has to the effects of daily living and lifestyles.
Stress is no stranger in to today’s busy and often hectic lifestyles. Everyone experiences stress at some point, some good … the stress that helps us meet daily challenges or motivates you to reach goals, and some not so good … the stress that caused physical and mental strain. How you deal with the stressors of everyday life can determine if you are more likely to suffer complications from associated health problems.
The negative effects of acute stress can affect our mental abilities by decreasing rational thinking, and decreasing our self-awareness and ability to focus; our metabolism by decreasing insulin production, increasing blood pressure and heart rate; our physical systems like tightening muscles in our jaw, face, throat, shoulders, and chest; and our immune response like increasing blood clotting factors and changing hormone levels, all leading to health problems.
The health problems include but are not limited to:
• The excess stress hormone slows healing and lowers the effectiveness of vaccines especially adults over 50 – study by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry at Ohio State University College of medicine.
• Continuous stress results in immune system cells to respond incorrectly by producing increased levels of inflammation that ultimately leads to everything from the common cold to more severe diseases like some cancers – stress researcher, Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology at Carnage Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
• Not only do the stress hormones stimulate cravings for foods high in sugar fat and salt, but based on the results of one study … published in Biological Psychiatry … for women experiencing a stressful event burned 104 fewer calories after consuming a meal from a fast food restaurant. And if this wasn’t bad enough for someone dealing with the risks of being overweight or obese, there is an increase in insulin and a reduction in the oxidation of fat that promotes additional fat storage – study by Janice Kiecolt-Glase.r
• Stress hormones can also interfere with the brain’s neurotransmitter systems including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. This imbalance can negatively impact sleep appetite, mood, and libido. – Huda Akil, professor of neuroscience, University of Michigan.
• Chronic stress can trigger depression and some individuals with more severe depression have been found to also have permanently elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This can alter the brain and permanently damage brain cells. – Huda Akil, professor of neuroscience, University of Michigan.
• Cortisol levels can also disrupt sleep. “Sleep deprived individuals can experience impaired memory and emotional control which makes it difficult to handle stress. Again, this is especially difficult of older individuals.- Martica Hall, professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
• Stress combined with inactivity can lead to musculoskeletal pain. This has led to the theory that neck, back and shoulder pain associated with job stress is the result of chronic stress induced inflammation.
• When the immune system is compromised due to stress, this can result in overgrowth of “bad” gut bacteria like H. pylori promoting ulcers. Stress is also recognized as a critical factor in chronic inflammatory gastrointentional disorders like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, heartburn, and ulcerative colitis. – Robert Sapolsky, stress researcher, Stanford University and author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”.
• The connection between heart disease and stress is common knowledge and research suggests that the process include increased levels of disease fighting white blood cells and changing their texture allowing them to contribute to plaque buildup. – Nature Medicine June 2014; Matthias Nahrendof, researcher at Harvard Medical School.
Holiday stress …
According to a heartland.time.com, article heart-related deaths rise 5% around the holidays. The article recognized the contributing factors of “emotional stresses of entertaining, traveling or dealing with your family” as contributing factors on Thanksgiving.
The holidays can be especially stressful. The metabolic stress of a large meal is itself a stress on the body that can contribute to an increase in stress hormones and resulting metabolic and immune response health issues. It is also a hectic time for many; shopping, financial burdens associated with holiday travel and gift buying, planning events; and dealing with family issues old and new, to mention a few.
Then there is the “die-hard fan of the teams facing off on Thanksgiving Day” According to a study by University of Southern California” rates tend to spike after a home team loses — and drop after it wins.” One detailed study found 15% more heart-related deaths among men and 27% more among women when their teams were just in the super bowl then when not. The more intensely the match and emotional response from fans, the higher the risk of heart attack.
WebMd also points to some additional stressors that when combined with a heavy meal can trigger holiday heart attacks including:
• Excessive physical exertion (especially snow shoveling in colder weather and hiking in warm weather).
• Anger, and emotional stress.
• Infection and fever that put additional stress on the heart.
This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical/nutritional/fitness advice. Information presented is subject to change as additional discoveries are made or additional research is published. Links to various sites within blogs are provided for your convenience only and we are not responsible or liable for the content, accuracy of information provided or privacy practices of linked sites or for products or services described on these sites.
Sources: http://www.b3nutrition.com, http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html, http://www.wellness.com/blog/13268701/5-ways-to-overcome-stress/wellness-editor, http://www.stress.org/, http://www.sciencedaily.com/, http://www.stress.org/take-a-deep-breath/, http://www.osu.edu/, http://www.cmu.edu/index.shtml, http://umich.edu/, http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mens_Health_Watch, http://www.AARP.com, http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/benefits-of-exercisereduces-stress-anxiety-and-helps-fight-depression, http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html, http://www.wellness.com/blog