Top 5 Stress-Related Health Conditions

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August 29, 2014


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Stress is a given in modern-day living.  It can also pose a threat to one’s health depending on how much stress the body absorbs— and how well a person can handle the pressure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) notes that stress can be beneficial by helping people “develop the skills they need to cope with and adapt to new and potentially threatening situations.”

But the CDC adds that these benefits end when someone becomes overwhelmed by stress from daily pressures or a traumatic event—and it threatens their health.

“Stress can aggravate or worsen just about any existing health conditions, or create new problems such as anxiety, headaches, muscle aches and even shortness of breathe from hyperventilating,” said Yariela  Enriquez, M.D., who practices internal medicine for the Baptist Health Medical Group. “It’s important to treat the stress to help you overcome underlying health problems, such as high blood pressure, digestive problems and risk factors for heart disease.”

Feeling emotional or nervous, or having trouble sleeping and eating are all normal reactions to stress.  So are excessive eating, drinking and smoking, which can all contribute to a decline in health.

Engaging in healthy activities, such as regular exercise and nutritious meals, and getting the right care and support, can help people overcome stress, the CDC says.

Here are the top 5 conditions that can be exasperated by stress:

  1. Heart Disease. It is unclear why some people are more affected than others by stress, but researchers have found that a “Type A” personality carries a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart problems. Stress can have an impact on increasing heart rate and blood flow. It can also cause the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood. Researchers are currently studying whether managing stress is effective for heart disease, says the American Heart Association (AHA). After a heart attack or stroke, people who feel depressed, anxious or overwhelmed by stress should talk to their doctor or other healthcare professionals, the AHA says.
  2. Belly Fat/Obesity. Too much fat in the belly reportedly poses higher health risks than fat deposits in legs or hips. And people who are more stressed seemed to have a greater propensity for storing fat in the belly. Binge-eating habits are often tied to stress. And obesity caused by stress-fueled eating habits can lead to serious health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
  3. Gastrointestinal Problems. Stress does not cause ulcers, but it can create or aggravate digestive problems for individuals with common GI issues, especially chronic heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux disease or  GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Several factors — both biological and psychological — contribute to gastrointestinal disorders. Numerous studies have suggested that stress may be particularly important in controlling these chronic conditions.
  4. Depression and Anxiety. Stress can be a major factor in anxiety and depression. A survey of recent studies found that people who were stressed out at their jobs had an 80 percent higher risk of developing depression over time, compared to workers with lower stress.
  5. Diabetes. Stress can harm those already diagnosed with diabetes. It can cause people to binge on  unhealthy foods high in carbohydrates, and that scenario can cause glucose levels to surge. People who are pre-disposed to diabetes, either through a family history or lifestyle habits, can increase their risk by stress-induced overeating.

“When it comes to stress, the good news is that you can treat and diminish its causes and your underlying health will likely improve as long as you are taking care of other risk factors,” Dr. Enriquez said.

 

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