How Stress Affects Your Health

6 ugly ill-effects of having too much stress in your life.
We all feel the pressure from time to time, and this can be positive, keeping us alert and away from danger. But if stress is a constant fixture in your life, the chronic tension can bring unwelcome health issues with it -- physically and mentally. No thanks to our fast-paced modern lifestyle, 43 percent of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress; these are just some of them:

1. Your heart health can be compromised

Stress triggers your body to release hormones (including adrenalin and cortisol) into the bloodstream as part of the 'flight or fight' response. This was designed to help our ancestors react to and get away from potential dangers quickly. But with long-term stress, elevated blood pressure and increase heart rate can increase pressure on the walls of the arteries and cause them to harden, potentially leading to heart disease.

2. Your immune system is weaker

If your body is constantly under stress, it may be less able to respond to further illness, says John Tredget, research nurse at Cardiff University's National Centre for Mental Health. That means you're more likely to get sick more often.

3. Your weight is affected

A study conducted by the University of Kentucky indicated a correlation between stress and eating more -- particularly foods that are high in fat and sugar. Qualified nutritionist, Emma Mihill believes the craving for sugary foods is triggered by the 'fight or flight' response which requires an increased supply of glucose.

This, coupled with modern hectic life, encourages bad eating habits such as eating too quickly, eating on the go, reaching for sugary snacks and drinks as quick energy boosts and eating without realizing that you're actually full.

4. It may be harder to get pregnant

During times of stress, production of the cortisol hormone has been found to reduce ovulation, explains Tredget. It can cause a delayed ovulation or in some cases, ovulation may not happen at all. "Our bodies will not prioritize conception and digestion or support the immune system when it thinks that we are preparing ourselves for a physical fight or to run away very quickly," says Mihill. On top of this, stress can prompt one to indulge in unhealthy coping behaviors such as drinking alcohol and smoking that can also negatively impact fertility.

5. Your mental health is decreased

Exposure to stress is clearly recognised as a trigger which may result in mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression, says Tredget. In small doses, stress can be motivating but too much may be overpowering and detrimental, especially if you're struggling to cope with it. The ability to handle stress is often more important than the stress itself, adds Tredget, which is why it's important to learn coping strategies to deal with stress in your life.

6. Your oral health suffers

Stress is a known cause for mouth ulcers, says Dr Simon Darfoor, who is based on Harley Street, London. It can also be a factor for teeth grinding, which can make your teeth more sensitive, cause pain and tenderness in the jaw (and contribute to headaches linked to this), cause damage to the teeth due to wear and tear and even encourage the teeth to move away from their original position.

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