7 Scary Ways Stress Affects Your Body
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We all know stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. Too much of the “fight or flight” kind of stress is known to have adverse effects on people’s lives. But do you know exactly how stress affects your body?
It Reduces Your Ability to Sleep
Insomnia. I bet you know the scenario pretty well: it’s two hours past your bedtime and you’re lying awake contemplating all the things happening in your busy life. Your brain won’t stop racing from one thought to another, yet you’re so tired! Money, relationship problems, work deadlines, you name it – it’s going through your mind in a never-ending loop.
Well guess what? Sleep is an essential body function. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep deprivation, “can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury.” While not all insomnia is stress-related, it can still cause some pretty scary side effects.
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It Causes You to Eat More Than You Should
According to the American Psychological Association, “millennials are most likely to report eating to manage stress.” I bet you’ve done this too. I mean, who doesn’t like to quiet their mind with a giant slice of pizza?
But why do we do it? Why do we crave the carb-rich and fatty foods when we’re stressed? Well, apparently stress makes the body secrete a hormone called cortisol, which increases appetite. And when you’re stressed out, you’re basically secreting it all the time. Stop it! Then – it’s not quite clear why – stress makes the body crave foods high in sugar (carbohydrates) and fat. It could be related to high insulin levels or to another hormone called ghrelin which controls hunger. It could also be a mix of both.
Either way, it’s pretty bad, because stress messes with your hormone levels to a point where you just can’t seem to stop eating!
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Stress Can Cause Rapid Weight Gain
So if you combine the last two points, what do you get? A high risk of weight gain and obesity. It’s easy to see how reduced sleep and overeating due to stress can cause a person to gain weight pretty fast. According to a study by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the tired brain can actually cause junk food cravings and binge eating. In other words, stress is basically a one-way ticket to Obesityville.
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Makes You Look Older Than You Actually Are
Did you know that stress also affects your skin? Yep. It can cause rashes and even make conditions like eczema or psoriasis even worse. Another adverse – and possibly more distressing – effect of stress is that it causes frown lines, dryness and dullness which all contribute to much older-looking skin. And who wants to look 40 at 25 years old?!
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Higher Risk of Stroke and Heart Disease
Perhaps a better know fact: stress can be dangerous for your heart and overall cardiovascular health. According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, prolonged stress at high levels combined with high blood pressure and high cholesterol can be a scary combo for your heart. For smokers and heavy drinkers – behaviors also associated with high stress levels – the risks of heart disease and stroke rise significantly.
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According to a 10-year study by the University of Edinburgh, high levels of stress and anxiety were found to have a direct link with an increased risk of dying from liver disease. Although other factors like alcohol consumption and obesity can also cause damage to the liver, a clear relationship was found to exist between psychological distress and liver disease. The reasons for this direct link are still unclear but it’s still a great example of how mind and body are truly linked. If one is unhealthy, the other one suffers.
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Stress Can Cause Hair Loss
Did you know that female pattern hair loss, also known as Androgenic Alopecia, can be caused by stress? Scary and true. According to the American Hair Loss Council, the most common causes or hair loss (unrelated to chemotherapy and other treatments) are physical and emotional stress. Other causes include pregnancy, birth control pills, surgeries or menopause.
During times of extreme stress, the body shuts down production of new hairs to focus on essential body functions. As hair falls out during its normal cycle, it does not grow back immediately and can take several months to start growing again. This is why sometimes hair loss is not immediately visible during stressful times and then it can seems like forever until it grows back.
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