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What s the Connection Between Stress and Health?

People who are under constant stress may adopt unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to cope with the problem.
Anxiety caused by stress can lead to insomnia.
High levels of stress can increase the risk for heart disease.
High blood pressure may be the result of high amounts of stress.
People dealing with excessive stress might turn to alcohol as an escape.
Stress may aggravate skin conditions like dermatitis.
Article Details
  • Written By: Nick Doniger
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Stress and health are often linked through a negative connotation. Certain types of stress, such as chronic stress or general anxiety, may contribute to high blood pressure, skin and hair problems, and even serious health conditions such as diabetes and cancer. Sometimes, stress and health are linked positively, however, such as when an adrenaline rush resulting from a certain type of acute stress allows someone to perform well at work or during sports. Stress may even be necessary for survival.

Acute stress is a type of short-term stress, which may be considered a positive force in certain situations. Eustress, a type of acute stress, is generally associated with excitement, such as the type of stress experienced during athletics or intense recreation. This adrenaline-charged type of stress pushes people to keep moving in high-pressure situations, and therefore may have a positive connotation in regard to human health.

Survival stress is what creates the infamous "fight or flight" response in the nervous system. While this may be a life-sustaining phenomenon, it also provides an example of how stress and health may be simultaneously positive and negative for health. Despite the necessity of survival stress, it speeds up the heart rate significantly and inhibits normal function of the digestive system in order to focus the body's energy on the task at hand. This raises blood pressure and may cause digestive tract discomfort.

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One of the most common types of stress is anxiety. Anxiety causes some of the less serious, but still debilitating, symptoms that denote a significant link between stress and health. Digestive ailments such as ulcers or acid reflux disorder may be caused by anxiety. It may also cause asthma, anemia, or insomnia. A doctor may help tell if such symptoms are being caused by anxiety, or if the anxiety experienced by a patient is the result of a different ailment in which such symptoms are present.

The most detrimental link between stress and health occurs when chronic stress is present. This ailment is both recurring and debilitating, and may cause or be caused by depression. Chronic stress has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, sexual debility, ulcers, and even cancer.

Various types of stress may contribute to high blood pressure. Acute stress may cause blood pressure to spike temporarily, but long-term high blood pressure is possible as a result of chronic stress. When this happens, the body begins producing stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, at higher levels with great frequency, eventually raising its average levels. A faster heart beat may denote high blood pressure.

Sometimes stress, anxiety, and depression cause skin, hair, and nail problems. Hair loss, nail weakening, and perspiration leading to oily skin and acne breakouts may all result from stress. Stress may also aggravate or cause psoriasis, skin dehydration, fever blisters, and dermatitis.

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