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How Does Stress Affect Your Health?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

Want to know how stress affects your health? Read this article and find out how.

It’s a known fact that stress affects the human body mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. The big question, however, is how exactly stress affects the human health. This article tries to answer this question by digging through series of studies published in scientific journals over the years. Enjoy it!

  • Stress Affects the Heart

Stress is a major cause of heart disease in both the male and female gender but an April 2012 study revealed that women are more likely to have symptoms of heart trouble after mental stress. A team of researchers from Penn State College of Medicine (Charity L. Sauder, Alison E. Thompson, Terrell Myers, and Chester A. Ray), examined the effects of mental stress on blood flow through the heart.

At the end of the day, they discovered that blood flow through the heart increases in men during mental stress, but remains static in women. This may explain why women suffer adverse cardiac attacks when stressed. This study was deliberated upon at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012, held April 21-25 at the San Diego Convention Center.

In the same vein, a July 2012 research indicated that women with stressful jobs are 67% more likely to suffer a heart attack and 38% more likely to have a cardiovascular event than their colleagues in less stressful jobs. The study, which monitored over 22,000 female health professionals in the US over 10 years, was published in the open access journal PLoS ONE. Based on personally reported job characteristics, the study team concluded that higher job strain was associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Stress Affects Unborn Children

Can you believe that the emotional stress a woman suffers in pregnancy can result in having children who would be bullied later in life? As unbelievable as it sounds, a November 2012 study revealed that the mental stress and health challenges a pregnant woman suffers may result in having children who would be victimized in later life.

Lead researcher, Professor Dieter Wolke (Professor of Developmental Psychology at University of Warwick and Warwick Medical School) said this is the first study to examine stress in pregnancy and a child's susceptibility to being bullied.

While identifying the main prenatal stress factors as financial difficulty or alcohol/drug abuse, and maternal mental health, the research team called for a reduction of stress levels among pregnant women.

In the same vein, a June 2012 study confirmed that stress affects brain development in children. This is according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The work was published in the June 6 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

  •  Stress Weakens the Memory

It is no news that chronic stress can affect the human emotions and the ability to think clearly. What is however news is a study that connects repeated stress with a weakened memory. The study, published by Cell Press in the March 8 edition of the journal Neuron, also provides valuable insight into why stress responses can activate many mental ailments. It was authored by Dr. Zhen Yan, from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

  • Stress Brings About Diseases

Even though we all know that stress affects the mind and body; we didn’t exactly know how stress brings about diseases and affects our health. But an April 2012 research has thrown up the answer - inflammation. The investigation, led by Sheldon Cohen (of Carnegie Mellon University) and his colleagues, discovered for the first time that the effects of mental and psychological stress on the body's ability to normalize inflammation can bring about a succession of diseases. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While explaining how stress can bring about disease, Cohen said cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control under stress. As a result, they produce levels of inflammation that bring about disease. And because inflammation is known to play a role in diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular and auto-immune disorders, it’s safe to say stress promotes disease.

  • Stress Causes Obesity

Stress is a major cause of obesity but a September 2012 research strongly connected stress and weight gain to black girls than their white counterparts. This means black girls are more prone to gaining weight due to stress than white girls.

Dr. Tomiyama of the University of California, Los Angeles in the U.S., and her colleagues, say chronic stress appears to have a greater negative impact on the weight of black girls, which may likely explain racial discrepancies in obesity levels.

The work is published online in Springer's journal, Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

  • Stress Causes Stroke

Stress is generally considered a risk factor for stroke and a January 2009 study lends credence to this fact. The research, published in the January 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, found that Japanese men in stressful jobs have an increased risk of stroke compared with those in less stressful positions.

  • Stress Increases Risk of Having Rheumatoid Arthritis

A September 2009 study throws up a question: can stress at work cause Rheumatoid Arthritis? A Swedish study, published in one of the issues of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, provides an answer by revealing new relationships between stress at work and development of rheumatoid arthritis. Even though it has not been fully established, the research by a group of Swedish investigators indicates a possible association with inflammatory conditions, including Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Conclusion and Action TakeAway

From 1983-2009, a June 2012 study conducted in the US indicated that more women, individuals with lower paychecks and those with less education reported more stress. If you ask me, I’d say no one is spared the ‘stress’ syndrome; it affects the male gender as well as the female. So, concerted efforts need to be made to nip it in the bud. I discuss some ways women can manage stress in an earlier-published article.



Jan 3, 2013 10:06pm
I can completely relate to the effects of stress on the body. I find myself trying to go in several directions at one time, and know it has affected my memory and ability to keep off the pounds. Just over a year ago a combination of things caused my body to say "enough" and I blacked out, which in turn has brought upon some added stress. My personal goal for 2013 is to take the time to relax and hopefully reverse some of the damage that has been done.
Jan 4, 2013 1:30pm
Dziomek, I completely understand but like you said, relaxing can greatly reverse the damage caused by stress. I wish you the best as you strive towards permanent healing in 2013.
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  1. "Can Psychosocial Stress At Work Increase Risk Of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis? ." Science Daily. 01/09/2009. 31/12/2012 <Web >
  2. "Stress May Delay Brain Development in Early Years." Science Daily. 06/06/2012 . 31/12/2012 <Web >
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  4. "Babies Born to Stressed Mothers More Likely to Be Bullied at School." Science Daily. 14/11/2012 . 31/12/2012 <Web >
  5. "Weight Gain Worry for Stressed Black Girls: Stress and Weight More Strongly Linked in Black Girls Than White Counterparts." Science Daily. 19/09/2012. 31/12/2012 <Web >
  6. "Who's Stressed in the US? Adult Stress Levels from 1983-2009 Described." Science Daily. 11/06/2012. 31/12/2012 <Web >
  7. "Mental Stress May Be Harder On Women's Hearts." Science Daily. 24/04/2012 . 31/12/2012 <Web >
  8. "How Stress Influences Disease: Study Reveals Inflammation as the Culprit." Science Daily. 02/04/2012. 31/12/2012 <Web >
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  10. "Job Strain Associated With Stroke In Japanese Men." Science Daily. 14/01/2009. 31/12/2012 <Web >

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