How Stress Affects the Body

How Stress Affects the Body

A couple of articles in the Union Tribune about different forms of stress recently caught my eye.

The first article that caught my eye was called “Winding Up Hurt”. The focus of the article was little league players suffering from over-use injuries.

The next article that caught my eye was called “Cell biologist finds clues to aging in tips of chromosomes”. Elizabeth Blackburn, the cell biologist here, recently completed a definitive study on the effects of stress on the body. Without getting too technical, the result of this study was the first time cause and effect from a non-genetic influence was clearly seen. The observed result of psychological stress is the shortening of the protective caps (telomeres) at the ends of chromosomes in cells. The shorter the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, the faster you age.

The Physiological Effects of Stress

Seventy-five to ninety percent of all doctors visits are due to stress-related ailments and disorders. Chronic stress leads to an out of balance biochemistry with elevated cortisol and suppressed serotonin. The biochemical markers of stress in turn lead to ill health. Stress plays a major causative role in both physical and mental health.

Stress has been linked to:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Breakdown in the immune system
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • The Effects of Chronic Stress on the Brain

    Chronic stress creates excessive levels of cortisol in the brain, leading to the destruction of neurons, decreased short term and contextual memory, and poor regulation of the hormonal response to stress.

    The Effects of Chronic Stress on the Immune System

    Chronic stress affects the immune system by increasing sympathetic activity and decreasing cellular immunity. Immune cells migrate to different parts of the body and can worsen autoimmune and allergic conditions. Over time, this suppresses the body’s ability to fight off infection.

    The Effects of Chronic Stress on the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Systems

    The effects of chronic stress can create significant damage to the cardiovascular system by increasing the risk of coronary artery disease, elevating blood pressure, increasing artherosclerosis (fat deposits in blood vessel walls), increasing the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack), increasing the risk of diabetes and increasing the likelihood of obesity.

    Massage is much more than feeling good for the moment. The effects of massage are cumulative—the more often you receive massage, the more your health benefits.

    Some of the benefits of massage include:

  • Stabilizing your nervous system
  • Decreasing pain
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Decreasing anxiety and depression
  • Increasing your energy and endurance
  • Increasing your strength and resilience
  • Improving the functioning of your nervous system
  • Improving your body’s ability to detoxify
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving posture, range of motion and flexibility
  • Improving dexterity and fine motor skills
  • Improving balance
  • Improving attention span, concentration, memory, creativity and learning efficiency
  • Massage increases the oxygen levels in your brain, keeps your internal organs functioning their best, and nurtures your skin, all of which helps to slow the aging process.

    Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year. Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health.

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    Copyright © Janet Lawlor, BCTMB