Whether it is down to work pressure, money worries or relationship troubles, most of us experience stress at some point in our lives. In fact, around 75% of people report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress over the past month. It is well known that stress can cause sleep problems, headache and raise the risk of depression. Here are some important ways in which stress can affect your health.
It is our response to this fight-or-flight response that determines our ability to successfully adapt, and thus, our ability to be healthy.
“Stress is caused by the loss or threat of loss of the personal, social and material resources that are primary to us. So, threat to self, threat to self-esteem, threat to income, threat to employment and threat to our family or our health,” Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, the Judd and Marjorie Weinberg presidential professor and chair at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, and member of the American Psychological Association (APA), told Medical News Today.
Stress levels ‘too high’ in Americans
An annual survey by the APA, completed by 3,068 adults in the US during August 2014, revealed that the primary cause of stress among Americans is money, with 72% of respondents reporting feeling stressed about finances at some point over the past month. Of these, 22% said they had felt “extreme stress” in the past month as a result of money worries.
The second most common cause of stress among Americans was found to be work, followed by the economy, family responsibilities and personal health concerns.
On a positive note, average stress levels among Americans have decreased since 2007. On a 10-point scale, respondents rated their stress levels as 4.9, compared with 6.2 in 2007. However, the APA say such levels remain significantly higher than the 3.7 stress rating we consider to be healthy.
I know that when I ask new patients about their recent stress levels, a typical rating is anywhere from 6-10 with 10 being the worst, so if 3.7 is considered healthy, you need to develop the strategies to be able to ADAPT more successfully, as opposed to having less stress.
“[Last] year’s survey continues to reinforce the idea that we are living with a level of stress that we consider too high,” says Norman B. Anderson, CEO and executive vice president of the APA.
The surprising health implications of stress
“Stress is significantly associated with virtually all the major areas of disease,” Prof. Hobfoll told MNT. “Stress is seldom the root cause of disease, but rather interacts with our genetics and our state of our bodies in ways that accelerate disease.”
Some of the more well-known implications of stress that you may have experienced include sleep deprivation, headaches, anxiety and depression. But increasingly, researchers are uncovering more and more ways in which stress can harm our health.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), stress can influence behaviors that have negative implications for heart health.
One study found stress could increase heart attack risk by 23%.
Have you ever arrived home after a stressful day at work and reached for that bottle of wine? Many people have.
In January 2015, MNT reported on a study that found working long hours was associated with risky alcohol use, which the study researchers say is partly down to the belief that “alcohol use alleviates stress that is caused by work pressure and working conditions.”
You may be surprised to learn that stress has been associated with increased risk of diabetes. In January last year, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that women with symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a condition triggered by very distressing events – were more likely to develop diabetes than those without PTSD.
Periods of stress increase production of the hormone cortisol, which can increase the amount of glucose in the blood – a potential explanation for why stress has been linked to higher risk of diabetes.
For people who already have diabetes, stress can lead to poorer management of the condition. As well as interfering with stress hormones and increasing blood glucose levels, the American Diabetes Association note that stressed patients with diabetes may be less likely to take care of themselves.
“They may drink more alcohol or exercise less. They may forget, or not have time, to check their glucose levels or plan good meals,” states the organization.
While the exact causes of the condition are unclear, past studies have suggested that stress may contribute to its development.
A study found that for seniors with mild cognitive impairment, anxiety could speed up progression toward Alzheimer’s.
In March 2013, MNT reported on a study by researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, which found high levels of stress hormones in the brains of mice were associated with large amounts of beta amyloid plaques – proteins believed to play a role in Alzheimer’s.
Approximately 1 in 8 couples in the US have problems getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Increasingly, researchers are suggesting stress may be a contributing factor.
In May 2014, a study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility that found stress in men can lead to reduced sperm and semen quality, which may negatively affect fertility.
How can you protect against stress-induced health problems?
Self talk, meditation, therapy, exercise, diet improvements are all great ways to protect against stress induced health problems. My recommendation?
Get yourself under Network Care stat! Or if you are currently under care, make a commitment to continue improving your health. Research regarding atients under Network Care have shown over time the ability to have:
- A greater ability to adapt to stress
- Better ability to recover
- Easier to implement diet and exercise programs
- More eager to meditate
Doesn’t it make sense that the more you can affect your master control system, your Nervous System, the healthier you can be, and safeguard to the best of your ability, the BEST ways to adapt to STRESS.