Have you ever noticed that when you are really stressed, you are more susceptible to catching a cold? There is a reason for that, as stress can create havoc in your body.
A healthy lifestyle is so much more than simply eating a healthy diet – as important as that is. A healthy lifestyle is a holistic approach to life that involves looking at every aspect of your life and making wise decisions. And managing stress is a huge factor in good health.
Today I want to look at some of the ways stress effects our body, and then in a future post I will discuss solutions to managing the ever-present stress in our lives.
Stress and Cancer
In 2003, an article titled, Circadian disruption in cancer: a neuroendocrine-immune pathway from stress to disease?, discussed the link between stress and cancer. Stress can disrupt the neuroendocrine and immune circadian rhythms. Because circadian system alterations occur in tumor tissue, tumor-bearing animals and cancer patients (and there is even great disruption seen in more advanced cases), stress could be very related to cancer. In fact the authors inform us that new research shows that a healthy circadian regulation is an important aspect of the body’s defense against cancer.
The bottom line: Managing stress can help you keep a healthy circadian rhythm, which is turn can help your body defend itself against cancer.
Stressed and inflammation
A 2012 study found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing the ability to regulate its inflammatory response. This shows that the effects of psychological stress on the body is linked to inflammation, which can then promote the development and progression of disease in a variety of forms!
This is something really important to understand about stress and its effects on the body because inflammation could lead to a wide variety of disease. The fact that stress causes inflammation is a huge clue as to why stress is so harmful to our bodies.
Stress and Heart Disease
A specific disease linked to stress is heart disease.
Although scientists are still trying to figure out why stress makes heart disease more likely, the effect stress has on the hormonal balance of the body and inflammation could be clue as to why they are linked.
Stress and increased cardiovascular mortality
Further, the author of a study related to mortality in older patients had this to say, “Cortisol is an important component of the stress system of the human body but in higher concentrations can be harmful. Our study shows that older persons with high levels of cortisol have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. This finding significantly adds evidence to the belief that cortisol can be damaging to the cardiovascular system.”
Cortisol has an important role in our bodies to help us deal with stressful situations, but it appears that when it is chronically elevated it can actually cause damage to our bodies. A further study backed this up by finding a clear link between elevated cortisol levels and a risk for cardiovascular disease. Plus, high blood cortisol levels were linked to an increase in death in patients with acute coronary syndrome.
In fact, cardiovascular disease is so connected to stress that they have even found that childhood stress or trauma is linked to getting heart disease later. The author of one study that linked the two commented, “We think early life stress increases sensitivity to a hormone known to increase your blood pressure and increases your cardiovascular risk in adult life,”
Stress is bad for your health, period. But it turns out that it is also bad for your vanity!
Stress and Belly Fat
Two studies, one focused on women, and another on men, found that those with central fat (or belly fat) were more likely to have a poor coping skills and differences in mood reactivity to stress. Central fat distribution was found in these studies to be related to a greater psychological vulnerability to stress and cortisol reaction to stress.
And yet another study supported the hypothesis that stress-induced elevated cortisol is related to central fat and risk of disease.
But here’s the deal. Stress is part of our lives, for better or for worse. The question isn’t simply what stress does to us, but how we can cope with stress in a healthy way. And that is what I am going to talk about next.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you! How does stress affect your life and how do you cope with it?