The Effects of Stress on the Human Body

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8 in 10 Americans are affected by stress. Unhealthy levels of stress result in utter chaos in the body. Many people feel the need to take on too much at one time. This results in major health issues. Some parts of the body that can be affected by stress include; the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, the brain, the digestive system, reproductive system, immune system, and even the reproductive system. Basically, the whole body is affected by stress.

The human brain is affected by stress in many ways. When a person is stressed beyond the normal limit, or in a dangerous situation, the brain sends out the “flight or fight response” This is when the adrenal glands release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Once the stressor is gone, everything typically goes back to normal. Chronic stress can also cause mental issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and substance abuse. Over time, any of these disorders could lead a person to take their own life.

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The Respiratory and Cardiovascular systems are two separate systems that work together. The Respiratory system is where your lungs are. The Cardiovascular system is responsible for your heart, blood vessels, and all the blood in the body. During the stress response the lungs take in more oxygen to attempt to deliver oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The heart pumps faster and blood pressure raises. This is okay every once in a while, but chronic high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

The gut and brain communicate constantly. Because of this, the digestive system is especially sensitive to emotions such as stress. Stress can cause gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or peptic ulcers. According to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, “The gut is often referred to as the ‘second brain’ of the body. If you are experiencing consistent complications of the digestive system, your body is probably trying to tell you that there may be a bigger problem".

The female reproductive system is greatly affected by stress. Stress can affect menstruation by making periods heavier, more painful, or it can even cause the absence of menses. Stress can also make pre-menstrual symptoms more intense and harder to cope with. These symptoms include cramping, nausea, fluid retention, and nausea.

Chronic stress can also affect sexual desire in both genders. A decreased sex drive is one of the top complaints from people who work very stressful jobs or put in a lot of hours. Too much stress can lead to a low libido by affecting hormone levels. This could damage the person’s intimate relationship, thus adding more stress.

Stress, especially in young adults, can cause acne or other skin conditions. The cells that produce sebum (the oily substance that can clog pores) have receptors that react to stress hormones. “In a 2007 study of high school students in Singapore, researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine also found that acne worsened during exam times, compared to low-stress periods, such as summer break. The study was published in a Swedish medical journal, Acta Derm Venereol”, says Katherine Kam in her article on WebMD. Scientists don’t know for sure why acne increases during high-stress periods, but believe it has something to do with the fluctuating hormone levels when a person is under a great amount of stress.

In conclusion, stress causes many physical and mental symptoms if not handled properly. Every area of the body can be affected by stress in one way or another. It is very important to know whether you are taking on too much a time. Stress can be handled in moderation, but too much can be very damaging to physical and mental health. Everyone must know their own limits and know how to minimize stress as much as possible. For example, a person working in a high-stress job who is presenting signs of high stress levels should cut back on weekly hours. A student under a great amount of stress due to course loads should drop non-essential courses. Some ways to relieve general stress or anxiety are stepping away from the thing causing stress, exercise, a good support system, and meditation. Self-care is more important than any project or due date. Stress relief should be a top priority in everyone’s life. If everyone would take steps to relax before the stressor becomes unmanageable, stress-related health issues would be a thing of the past.

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