Stress and health are closely linked. It is well known that stress, either quick or constant, can induce risky body-mind disorders. Immediate disorders such as dizzy spells, anxiety, tension, sleeplessness, nervousness and muscle cramps can all result in chronic health problems. In the long run they may also affect our immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems. Cardiovascularailments There are varying opinions on whether stress actually has any telling impact on our cardiovascular ailments or not. Research shows that in certain individuals stress does contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other cardiac risk factors such as addictions and obesity. Stress induced or not, suffering from cardiac conditions is in itself quite stressful for most individuals and their families. Frequent stress responses of our body increase a host of molecules potentially dangerous for the optimal health of the heart. These are low-density lipoproteins (LDL, the 'bad' form of cholesterol) and other lipid types such as triglycerides. Because stress delays the processing and clearance of these fats, their accumulation puts people at risk of developing atherosclerosis (or arteriosclerosis) and other heart diseases. As a response to daily stress, extreme reactors show a high level of palpitation and blood pressure in their body. According to a medical research, these surges may gradually result in injury to the coronary arteries and the heart. Even physical causes of stress such as vigorous physical activity and exercises can place demands on the heart muscle of the weak or of people already suffering from coronary blockage. The coronary artery becomes ischemic (i.e., starved for oxygen through a reduced amount of blood flow) in trying to meet the body`s increased demands. The ischemic heart muscle can cause either angina (chest pain) or heart attack (actual death of cardiac muscle). About a half of those patients who experience ischemia during exercise also experience it during mental stress, and this group of patients are more likely to suffer adverse cardiac events. It is evident that people who live in chronically stressed-out conditions are more likely to take up smoking, alcohol and substance abuse (drugs, prescribed or illegal), fall into eating disorders (unhealthy food habits) and inertia. Medical practitioners say all of these stress-related behaviors have a direct effect on the development of coronary artery diseases. High Blood Pressure/Hypertension Blood pressure fluctuates with age. It gradually increases, as we grow older. It is also known to vary according to the varying hours of the day. But, it has been medically proven that emotional and psychological disturbances due to acute or chronic causes of stress precipitate high blood pressure in human beings. Immune Related Disorders Stress is known to worsen many immune related medical conditions, including diabetes. Cortisol produced during stress situations may suppress the body`s immune response, increasing susceptibility to infectious diseases. Results of a recent research have also shown that stressful life events can hasten the progression of AIDS in HIV-positive patients. The study shows that disease progression to AIDS was more rapid in the presence of severe life stressors, absence of social support systems, negative attitude as a coping mechanism, and elevated cortisol levels. Studies also suggest that frequent or chronic stress conditions increase the chances of bacterial infections such as tuberculosis and group-A streptococcal diseases (GAS). Though most GAS infections are relatively mild ailments such as `strep throat,` or impetigo (a form of skin allergy), on rare occasions it can even cause severe and terminal illnesses. These are known as invasive GAS infections. It occurs when the bacteria get past the defenses of the infected person and enter into parts of the body where bacteria usually are not found, such as the blood, muscle, or the lungs. Two of the most severe, but least common, forms of invasive GAS disease are necrotic fasciitis (destroys muscles, fat, and skin tissue) and Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (causes blood pressure to drop rapidly and organs such as kidney, liver, lungs to fail), Attacks of flu, pneumonia and common cold are directly related to stressful life conditions. Asthma In asthma patients, a stressful situation can make the airways over-reactive and precipitate an attack. Ulcers And Digestive Disorder In severe stress conditions blood supply to the stomach is restricted, hampering normal digestive functions. Also, the function of the entire intestine is controlled partly by the nervous system, which in turn is directly affected by stress. These conditions, including one`s diet during stress can offset gastrointestinal disorders such as an ulcer or irritable bowel syndrome. Stress can make these symptoms worse if somebody is already suffering from gastrointestinal disorders. Migraines/ Headaches/ Backaches It is now established that stress, cognitive appraisal, coping and migraine are reciprocally related. Stress is detrimental to the body and can cause back pains, neck pains and headaches. Cancer and Neuro-Degenerative Disorders A path breaking research conducted in the early 1990s showed stress induced reduction in T-Lymphocytes (white blood cells that destroy cancer cells) in the human body leading to an increase in metastasis. A later study on women suffering from breast cancer reestablished the previous finding and confirmed the fact that stressors cause lowest levels of natural-killer-cell activity in the body. Chronic stress induced homeostasis changes and immune reduction, tends to affect the balance between oxidants and antioxidants in the body. Many on-going studies have found that alteration in this balance in favor of oxidants may result in pathological responses causing functional disorders and diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer`s disease. It can also accelerate the aging process. For, oxidation increases electronegative constituents in body molecules mutilating the `blue print` of the cells. Multiplication of distorted cells can set in cancer. In his treatise on tumors, De Tumoribus, the Greek physician Galen, noted that melancholic women stand a greater chance for developing of breast cancer than those with more optimistic and cheerful traits.
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