Stress is a normal response to danger, but when it’s chronic or intense, it can have serious health consequences.
When a threat arises, your body responds by flooding you with hormones that let your muscles fight back or run faster.
Those hormones include adrenaline and norepinephrine, which cause your heart rate to speed up. They also make your eyes more alert and increase your breathing rate.
Some of the most common health problems people develop are related to the heart. They can include chest pains, a heart attack or stroke.
You can’t prevent heart disease from developing, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. These include being active, eating healthy and reducing stress.
There is a lot of research about how emotional and physical stress can affect the heart. It seems that chronic, ongoing stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which can cause damage to the arteries.
The media has often reported that stress can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases like a heart attack or stroke. But is that true?
Recent studies have found that people who go through stressful events in their childhoods are more likely to have high levels of inflammation and certain risk factors for heart disease later in life. This was made possible by new neuroimaging techniques, which allow researchers to look at brain activity.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure puts extra strain on your heart and the blood vessels. Over time, it can cause problems including heart attack and stroke.
People with high blood pressure are at greater risk for developing other health conditions, such as kidney disease and dementia. There are ways to manage your condition and reduce your risk of these serious illnesses.
For example, you can lower your blood pressure by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. You may also be prescribed medication to help control your blood pressure.
Your doctor may prescribe a combination of medicines called blood pressure (BP) medicines. These medications work by decreasing certain chemicals that tighten your blood vessels, so blood can flow more smoothly and your heart can pump blood more efficiently.
Your BP can also be lowered by changing your lifestyle habits, such as cutting down on salt intake and increasing your potassium and calcium intake. You should also get plenty of sleep and exercise, which can help relax you and reduce your stress levels.
Many things can trigger depression, including being ill or suffering a traumatic event. Other causes include ongoing problems in your life, such as being unemployed or living in an abusive relationship.
There are also certain chemicals inside your brain that work to make you feel the way you do. These chemicals work in different ways and can change over time.
It's not clear why some people get depressed more than others. But it's likely that if you have one episode of depression, you're at risk of having another.
We don't know the exact cause of depression, but it's thought that it comes from a mix of genetic, biological, psychological, social and lifestyle factors.
Stress can contribute to depression, as can a lack of sleep and overuse of alcohol or drugs. But there are many other possible causes as well, and it's important to see your doctor if you think you have depression. Getting treatment early can help you recover from it and prevent it from coming back.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear or panic. It’s an essential part of our 'fight-or-flight' response to danger.
When this nervous feeling persists for longer periods of time, it can become a problem. It can lead to a heightened sense of fear and anxiety, which can then cause physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, palpitations, sweating, cold hands and feet, and inability to breathe.
The body responds to anxiety with an over-production of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure and other health problems.
Anxiety can also trigger digestive and excretory problems such as stomach pains, excess bloating or cramping, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome and vomiting. Frequent stress and the 'fight-or-flight' reaction can also reduce your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to illness and viral infections. The good news is that most people who suffer from anxiety recover well with treatment. It can involve psychotherapy or talk therapy, as well as medications.