Alec Tinker Osteopath in Yorkshire – Back pain, Rehabilitation, Sports Injuries

The Power of Stress!

The purpose of stress is to save us from being eaten or to help us catch something to eat.

2 hormones that control stress are called Adrenaline and Glucocorticoid. When in a stressful situation these hormones increase our blood pressure and respiration so that we can get as much oxygen and other nutrients to our muscles as possible. They also switch off processes that aren’t essential at that time e.g. the reproductive system, immune system, growth, repair and digestion.stress

In the wild once we had either run away from whatever was hunting us or caught whatever we were hunting our body would then switch off the stress hormones, but in the world we live in today many people are unable to switch these hormones off.

A large study called the White Hall study was performed which involved 28000 people over 40 years. They looked at individuals rank within the government, stress levels and overall health. All had the same medical care and yet the study showed that the lower you were within White Hall the higher your stress levels, risk of heart disease and lower your length of life expectancy was.

Suffering from high stress levels for long periods can lead to numerous problems including the many health issues on list below:

  • Peptic ulcers are one symptom that can result from the body shutting down the immune system so that bacteria thrive in the stomach and begin to eat away at the stomach lining causing ulcers to form.
  • Stress is an important factor in the development Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
  • Infertility can be a symptom of stress. As mentioned above the stress hormones switch off the production of the hormones needed for reproduction and sexual arousal.
  • Atherosclerosis (blocked arteries). Stress hormones increase blood pressure and heart rate. This puts more pressure on the lining of the artery walls which causes them to develop minor tears. The body then lays down cholesterol to patch up the tears. Over time the body puts down more and more cholesterol which also increase blood pressure even more and may eventually lead to an aneurysm, stroke or heart attack.
  • Stress can also reduce our brain cells in the area called the Hippocampus which controls learning and memory. Severe acute stress which we have probably all experienced when you just forgetting things you know you do know for example during a test or exam.
  • By switching off the immune system high levels of stress increase our susceptibility of getting colds, flu and infections.
  • Stress reduces dopamine which is the hormone that makes us feel pleasure. So people who are stressed actually feel less pleasure.  Food doesn’t taste as good, sun doesn’t shine as bright etc…which may lead to or can certainly be a major factor in the development of depression.
  • High levels of stress over a long period of time can actually alter the way fat is distributed over our bodies. This fat is deposited inside the abdomen which is the worst place for it to end up because it producing hormones that disrupt the normal balance in the body and is linked to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Stress of a mother during pregnancy can have massive effects on their baby. It can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, make the child more responsive to stress hormones and generally results in poorer physical and mental health.
  • Stress also affects our DNA. We have 46 chromosomes which are capped off by telomeres. Stress causes these telomeres to shorten which causes DNA to fray. This increases the rate ageing.

In the next blog post I will discuss ways to help reduce stress levels for living a healthier and hopefully longer life.

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