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Everyone suffers stress at some point in their life. The death of a loved one, a change of work and even any daily responsibility can trigger a period of stress.
And although many scientific studies endorse short-term stress as a key element in survival, in the long term the consequences for the body can be devastating if we do not remedy it.
Irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia are among the most cited consequences by specialists, all of which refer to symptoms related to behavior or mental state.
But adrenaline and cortisol can also affect and weaken various organs or parts of the body, explains the American Institute of Stress (AIS), a non-profit organization that provides information on the role of stress in health and disease.
“There is growing evidence of links between poor stress management and physical illness,” says Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin on the Mayo Clinic website.
1. Immune system
The torrent of hormones that releases stress reduces the body’s response to external invaders. Viruses, bacteria and other agents harmful to health have it easier to penetrate our body.
Psychologist Kristin Hadfield, of the University of Queen Mary in London, tells BBC Mundo that “stress has a lot of negative effects on our body, when you are stressed, you are more susceptible to viral diseases.”
The flu and the common cold , as well as other infections, are the most common, but stress can also increase the time it takes to recover from an illness or injury.
2. Sexuality and reproductive system
If there is one thing experts agree on, stress is exhausting for both the body and the mind. That’s why, says the American Institute of Stress, it is not uncommon to lose sexual desire during times of stress .
If stress is maintained for a long time, a man’s testosterone levels may start to decrease. This can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence.
Chronic stress can also increase the risk of infection for male reproductive organs such as the prostate and testes.
For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle l. It can lead to irregular, heavier or more painful periods.
Chronic stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.
3. Digestive system
Heartburn, reflux, bloating or constipation are some of the most uncomfortable long-term effects when stress becomes chronic.
In addition, in response to this situation the liver produces sugar that goes directly to the bloodstream.
It is possible that people subjected for a long time to stress can not cope with this additional increase in glucose.
This implies an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes .
Stress can affect digestion and how nutrients are absorbed in the intestine.
“It can lead to deficiencies in mental health, memory and learning, and poorer metabolic regulation ,” says Kristin Hadfield.
4. Heart and respiratory system
If you already have a breathing problem such as asthma or emphysema, stress can make it harder to breathe.
In situations of stress, the heart also pumps faster. Hormones cause blood vessels to contract and divert more oxygen to the muscles, which increases blood pressure.
As a result, frequent stress causes the heart to work too much for too long. When blood pressure increases, so does the risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.
5. The muscles
Muscle tension as a result of stress can cause headaches, back pain and shoulders and body pains.
But if all these internal symptoms were not enough, chronic stress favors the appearance of imbalances in behavior, such as eating disorders or drug or alcohol abuse.
“It is difficult to think of any disease in which stress can not play an aggravating role or in any part of the body that is not affected,” explains the American Institute of Stress.