10 Ways Stress Affects Your Body
After my parents passed away, besides the heart-break and grief, I was left to plan both their funerals. And with no will, it was up to me to figure out what to do with the properties they owned and what to do with their investments, bank accounts, etc.
I’ve been stressed before, but nothing like that. It was the longest period of time with that amount of stress I’ve ever experienced.
Migraines were very frequent (and I’d never had them before) occurring once or twice a week, I started to lose weight, experience chest pain, had muscle tension (mostly in my neck), had sleep problems (which the PTSD also contributed to), and I got sick more often.
For the first time I noticed just how much stress affects your body.
And there are so many things that can cause stress in your life. Common areas of stress include:
- Problems in your marriage
- Declining health
- Personal relationships
- Loss of friendship
- Conflict with your boss
- Home repairs
And the list goes on, am I right? Unfortunately there are so many things that can cause stress these days.
Here are the most common things that happen when stress affects your body:
- Tense muscles
- Muscle pain
- Chest pain
- Upset Stomach
- Trouble falling and staying asleep
- Decreased sex drive
But there are also ways that stress affects your body that aren’t as noticeable, but just as bad.
Here are 10 ways stress affects your body that you may not be aware of:
1) Long-term stress causes heart problems. Stress causes your heart rate to increase, so when you are stressed for a long period of time, the ongoing increase in heart rate, as well as the elevated levels of stress hormones and blood pressure levels, can take a toll on your body.
This is the reason people experiencing long-term stress are at an increases risk for hypertension, stroke, and heart attack.
2) When you’re stressed, your liver produces more glucose. During stress, “the hypothalamus signals the autonomic nervous system and the pituitary gland and the process is started to produce epinephrine and cortisol, sometimes called the “stress hormones.” When cortisol and epinephrine are released, the liver produces more glucose, a blood sugar that would give you the energy for “fight or flight” in an emergency.
For most of you, if you don’t use all of that extra energy, the body is able to reabsorb the blood sugar, even if you’re stressed again and again. But for some people — especially people vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes — that extra blood sugar can mean diabetes.
Who’s vulnerable? The obese and races more inclined to diabetes, such as Native Americans. Studies show that if you learn how to manage stress, you can control your blood sugar level, sometimes nearly as much as with medication.” 
3) Your stomach is more sensitive under stress. During stress, your brain actually becomes more aware of sensations in your stomach. So you may experience more intense “butterflies”, pain, or nausea. And if you’re extremely stressed for a long period of time, you may develop severe stomach pain or may even develop ulcers.
4) Stress affects the male reproductive system. Chronic stress can negatively affect a man’s testosterone production, sperm production, and can even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence.
5) Stress also affects the female reproductive system. When stress is present for long periods of time, changes can occur in sex drive, PMS, and menstruation cycles.
– Sex Drive:
When women are stressed, sexual desire may be reduced. This is especially true when she is “simultaneously caring for young children or other ill family members, coping with chronic medical problems, feeling depressed, experiencing relationship difficulties or abuse, dealing with work problems, etc.” 
– PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome):
During periods of stress, many women may find that their PMS symptoms are worse and more difficult to cope with.
– Changes in Period Cycles:
Women may notice their periods become irregular and more painful during times of stress.
6) Stress can cause depression. If you’re stressed for a long period of time, it can take a toll on your mind, making you feel depressed. If you’re experiencing both stress and depression, such as in the case of grief, stress can make the depression worse.
7) Long-term stress can cause weight changes. Some people overeat when they are stressed and others don’t eat enough. This can cause weight gain or weight loss, sometimes in substantial amounts.
8) Stress affects your immune system. “Stress stimulates the immune system. In the short-term, that’s a bonus. It helps you stave off infection and heal wounds. Over time, cortisol compromises your immune system, inhibiting histamine secretion and inflammatory response to foreign invaders.
People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like influenza and the common cold. It increases risk of other opportunistic diseases and infections. It can also increase the time it takes to recover from illness or injury.” 
9) Stress can make you crave fat and sugar. During stress the hormone cortisol is released, as we discussed earlier. Studies have linked this hormone to increased sugar and fat cravings. The studies show the cortisol hormone binds to receptors in your brain that control food intake. This causes you to crave sugary and fatty foods, thus making weight gain more likely.
10) Premature aging can be a side effect of stress. From Health.com, “Traumatic events and chronic stress can both shorten telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of cell chromosomes, causing your cells to age faster. The good news? Exercising vigorously three times a week may be enough to counteract the effect.” 
It’s incredible (in a bad way) how much stress affects your body. In fact, now 75 – 90% of all visits to the doctor’s office are for stress-related ailments and complaints. 
But I’ve written an article to help you combat the stress you’re feeling, 5 Practical Ways to Kill Stress. 🙂
Have you noticed other ways stress affects your body that aren’t listed here?
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http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx  http://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body  http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20642595_3,00.html
http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20642595_19,00.html  http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/effects-of-stress-on-your-body