As difficult as stress is to live with by itself, more and more medical research is pointing to many other health problems being related to, or caused in part by, stress. All by itself, stress apparently increases the risk of illnesses like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, asthma, obesity and others.
These findings make it even more important than ever to take steps to control stress and lower the risk of other diseases and conditions as well. The following are some of the most significant problems caused or worsened by stress:
- Heart Disease Although exactly why isn’t clear research has shown that the aggressive, type A personalities experience a higher risk of hypertension and heart problems. What is known is that sudden emotional stress can trigger serious cardiac issues up to and including heart attacks. Anyone with chronic heart difficulties really needs stress relief as much as possible.
- Headaches Stress is a very common trigger for all types of headaches. Not simply tension headaches, but more serious migraine headaches as well
- Gastrointestinal problems Stress has never been shown to be a primary cause of ulcers but it can make existing ulcers worse. Unrelieved stress is a common cause of other GI tract problems such as chronic heartburn
- Obesity Too much belly fat appears to pose a greater risk to health than does fat accumulated on the legs or hips. And people with high stress levels secrete higher levels of a hormone called cortisol which seems to increase fat that is stored in the abdomen.
- Asthma There are many studies that have indicated that failure to control stress can worsen asthma and parents take note: If you are stressed yourself there is a much higher risk that your children will also develop asthma
- Diabetes There are two ways stress makes diabetes worse. First it appears to increase the levels of glucose in those who have type 2 diabetes. Next, being stressed can increase adverse behaviors like unhealthy eating and drinking too much
- Anxiety and Depression Unsurprisingly, stress is well known to be associated with higher than normal rates of both anxiety and depression. One recent survey discovered that those with job related stress had a much higher risk of becoming depressed within just a few years than did folks with lower stress rates
- Accelerated Aging Process One very telling study compared the DNA of mothers who cared for chronically ill children with those who did not found that a certain part of the chromosomes indicated certain signs of premature aging by as much as seventeen years
- Alzheimer’s a research study done with animals indicated that stress may well worsen Alzheimer’s by causing lesions in the brain to from much more rapidly
- Premature Death A study of elder caregivers who were stressed from attending their spouses needs discovered a more than 60% higher death rate than those their age who were not being caregivers
Although the amount of health problems affected by stress may be sobering there are reasons for optimism. Many studies indicate that simple stress management techniques will both make you feel better and improve your health.