What Does Stress Actually Do to You?

Saad Rana Jul 14 2014

Stress is defined as the state of mental, physical or emotional strain or tension that results from demanding circumstances. Those demanding circumstances can be examples such as work, relationship problems, responsibilities to your family, negative changes, traumatic experiences, social situations or even something as little as the traffic when commuting to and from work. Managing Stress is extremely important as stress causes innumerable consequences to your mental, physical and emotional well-being. This article will give you reasons on why you should avoid stress and take care of it if you are stressed out.

Physiology of Stress

When you encounter a stressful situation, a tiny area in your brain called the hypothalamus activates and sends signals to your adrenal glands which are located near your kidneys. The adrenal glands release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates blood pressure and gives you a sudden boost of energy. Cortisol increases sugar in your bloodstream and enhances your brain’s use of the glucose. Cortisol also alters the immune system response, suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system ad growth processes. Cortisol also acts on the area of the brain that controls mood, motivation and fear.

Risk of Heart Attacks

Researchers have found that those who are always stressed out tend to have a higher risk of high blood pressure and other heart problems. It can directly increase the heart rate and blood flow and causes the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood. This can all lead to heart attacks and strokes. People who have chronic heart problems need to learn to manage their stress as much as they can

Risk of Obesity

The higher levels of cortisol that are increased during stress increases the fat around the belly. People with high stress tend to store fat around there, which can lead to obesity. Another hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) that is released due to stress has been linked to cravings for sugar and fat food items, which can also lead to an increase in body weight and obesity.

Risk of Asthma

During a study of 5,000 adults, evidence was shown that stress can double the risk of asthma and other respiratory problems. Another study noted that expecting mothers who smoked during their pregnancy due to stress increased the risk of developing asthma in babies who were born to them.

Risk of Diabetes

The increase of adrenaline and cortisol directly elevate the levels of glucose, which can lead to Diabetes. It was studied that men who were under constant stress were 45 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Stress also leads to the release of CRF as mentioned above, which leads to sugar cravings and bad food habits.

Risk of Depression and Anxiety

Its no surprise that constant stress can affect the emotional well-being of a person. Stress can lead to depression and anxiety and a recent survey found that people who had stressful or unsatisfying jobs had an 80 percent higher risk of developing depression.

Worsen Alzheimer’s and Memory

Chronic stress has been linked to damaged glutamate receptors in the brain which can lead to impaired memory. Stress can also worsen Alzheimer’s disease and can cause the brain lesions due to the disease to speed up their formation.

Aging Faster

Stress has been linked to the effects of aging. Stress causes the changing of telomeres in the chromosomes of cells. Chromosomes are the structures in cells that carry genetic information and telomeres protect the chromosomes so they do not unravel. Stress causes the telomeres to become weak thus they are unable to protect the chromosomes. This is what leads to aging and stress is a big factor in it.

Risk of Gastrointestinal Problems

Stress can lead to the imbalance of microorganisms in our guts which can lead to digestive problems, upset stomachs, diarrhea, heartburn, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Risk of Adrenal Fatigue and Decreased Immunity

Chronic stress that leads to elevated cortisol levels has been shown to lower sex hormones impair the body’s ability to produce further stress hormones which can lead to decreased sex drive, fatigue, inability to handle stress and a low immunity. Evidence shows that the duration of stress (constant stress) is what leads to a weaken immune system, which can further cause the inability to fight infections and lead to diseases.

Risk of Skin Infections and Acne

Researchers have found that stress leads to an increase in acne (http://www.htv.com.pk/life/6-natural-acne-treatments), especially in male students. It can also cause psoriasis of the skin. Psoriasis is an itchy condition of the skin that causes red scaly patches.

Other Problems

  1. Higher stress levels have been linked to an increase of headaches and migraines.
  2. Stress can affect your ability to sleep and have a good night’s rest.
  3. Stress can lead to hair loss and hair thinning.
  4. Stress leads to a constant state of worrying, foggy thinking, impaired judgments, negativity, and indecisiveness.
  5. You might be more accident prone, have a loss of appetite, be restlessness, and an increase in smoking.
  6. You can experience a loss of confidence, irritability, apathy, and alienation.



Stress is a horrible thing as it is extremely detrimental to your health. It can cause all sorts of damage to the body whether its physical, emotional or mental. Learn how to beat stress the natural way. Other health conditions can also lead to stress and the stress caused by those health conditions cause worsen your health. So it is very important that you take care of your health and manage your stress as they are both connected. Stay healthy and stay positive!


Saad Rana

Saad Rana:

As a current dental student at Ziauddin University, Saad takes an interest in health, fitness and nutrition. He writes articles based on research through on-line publications as well as consulting various doctors and nutrition and fitness experts. When he's not writing for Health TV, you can find him studying, exercising or watching some of his favourite TV shows.