Body stress may lead to many serious health problems, other than weight gain. It affects the brain, the cardiovascular system, the muscles and the lungs, leading to both physical and psychological damage.
Psychological Disorders Caused by Stress
Depression and anxiety are only two psychological problems that can be caused by stress. These problems occur when people are unable to adapt themselves to stressful situations. Studies revealed that the risk of developing such psychological disorders is nearly 6 times higher in around 66 percent of the people who experience stress. The stress hormone impairs the normal release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that causes feeling of well-being.
Stress and Heart Disease
When people are found in stressful situations, the heart starts pumping faster, but the arteries constrict, thus limiting the amount of blood that gets to the heart. In a primary phase, this leads to heart arrhythmia, but heart attacks are also possible. In people who already suffer from a heart rhythm problem, this effect is even more obvious.
Stress also affects the thickness of the blood, thus increasing the risk of blood clots that could block the arteries. In addition, blood cholesterol levels are known to be higher in stressed people. This fact is associated with an elevated risk of stroke, as plaque forms on the walls of the arteries, impairing the normal blood flow.
Immune System Problems Related to Stress
People who are exposed to stress repeatedly are more susceptible to infections. In such cases, the number of white blood cells is significantly lower, fact that increases the chances of catching a cold, for example. Once an infection occurs, the symptoms tend to become more serious if the exposure to stress continues. This explains why people with the flu are recommended to rest until their symptoms improve. The evolution of more serious infections also takes place more rapidly.
Under stress, the body starts releasing cytokines in excess. These immune factors are harmful, and according to some studies, they are even involved in the development of heart disease.
Eating Disorders Associated with Stress
As mentioned previously, stress does not only cause weight gain. In some people, it has the exactly opposite effect. Stress is known to be associated with a poor appetite, which leads to weight loss. There are even cases when stress forces the thyroid gland to overproduce hormones, thus leading to an increased appetite. However, at the same time, the body starts burning up more calories than usual, leading once again to weight loss.
Body Stress and Sexual Dysfunctions
Not at last, the libido and the activity of the reproductive system can be influenced by stress. Besides a decreased libido, women who are stressed also have a greater inability of achieving orgasm. In men, the effects are even more dramatic, as stress sometimes leads to impotence. This is also explained by the way stress influences the blood flow.
Moreover, stress increases the intensity of the premenstrual syndrome and even influences fertility. The latter effect occurs when stress hormones affect the hypothalamus gland, which is responsible with releasing reproductive hormones. The duration of the period is also related to stress, and there are even cases when menstruation is entirely shut down.