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7 Health Conditions Caused By Stress

7 Health Conditions Caused By Stress

Stress is a natural part of life. Everyone experiences it at one time or another. In fact, a recent poll conducted by Harvard University-Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-NPR found that 49% of adults reported having a major stressful event or experience in the past year. In addition, more than 4 in 10 (43%) adults report stressful events and negative experiences related to health.

Many people who experience stress try to cope with it through eating, drinking, smoking, and even taking drugs. People who are stressed typically get less sleep and exercise less. These are all activities that can negatively impact health. However, recent studies have been discovering that there is a lot more to the way that stress impacts our health.

Our bodies react to stress by pumping adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream. This focuses the mind and body creating an immediate reaction. This response has helped humans survive throughout generations. Unfortunately, this rush of adrenaline due to stress can also create health risks. In addition, the more significant risk is because of the cortisol increase.

Cortisol has many good functions, like reducing inflammation, but is not meant to be constantly released. The constant release of cortisone causes cells to be desensitized to the hormone. This can allow inflammation to go crazy. Chronic inflammation over the long-term can damage blood vessels and brain cells. It can also lead to insulin resistance (a precursor of diabetes) and promote extremely painful joint diseases.

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Here are 7 health conditions caused by stress:

1. The Common Cold

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    In a shocking 2012 study 276 healthy adults were interviewed about stressful events in their lives and then exposed to the cold virus. The people who were experiencing chronic stress were cortisol resistant and more likely to get sick. The study showed that when under continuous stress, cells in the immune system are unable to respond properly to the cold virus. They produce levels of inflammation that lead to disease.

    2. Increased Weight Gain

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    Overweight

      The stress hormones stimulate a craving for foods full of sugar, starch, and fat. This is the reason you are more likely to want a candy bar after a stressful day. However, new research shows the link between stress and weight gain is a lot more complex than just bad food choices. For example, in one study women who had one or more stressful events during the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories in the seven hours following a fast-food meal than women who ate a similar meal but were stress-free. 104 calories may not seem like a lot, but it can actually add up to 11 extra pounds per year.

      In addition to creating changes in metabolism, stress also produces a rise in insulin levels and a decrease in fat oxidation. This process promotes fat storage. Other studies have shown a correlation between excess cortisol and increased abdominal fat.

      3. Sleep Issues

      Sleeping Issues

        As we get older we experience natural decreases in the amount of deep sleep we get and an increase in nighttime wakefulness. Stress can aggravate these sleep deficits and make it harder to go back to sleep after you awaken in the night. Sleep deprivation can impair memory and hurt emotional control. A lack of sleep also makes it harder to handle daily stress. Cortisol levels keep people awake at night and then our brains respond by making us think about or problems. Lack of sleep also leads to dental problems & then you can’t escape from painful dental implants.

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        4. Heart Disease

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          The link between long-term stress and heart attacks has been well known for years. A recent study made the reasons behind this clearer. In the study, Matthias Nahrendorf, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, discovered that blood samples from people with high levels of stress had a surplus of white blood cells. Cortisol changes the texture of white blood cells making them attach themselves to blood vessel walls. This creates plaque, a key marker of heart disease. The Harvard Medical School study found that a surplus of white blood cells caused hardening in the arteries of stressed but otherwise healthy mice. Taking a DNA test can also tell you if stress puts you at greater risk for heart disease.

          5. Depression

          Depressed woman

            Stress plays a role in depression and brain health. Depression can be triggered by stressful episodes and then take on a life of its own. Stress makes many brain neurotransmitter systems, like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, become out of balance. This causes issues with mood, sleep appetite, and libido. Many severely depressed people have elevated cortisol levels. This can permanently damage brain cells.

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            6. Ulcers and Stomach Issues

            Stomach pain

              Over the last 50 years, doctors have attributed stomach ulcers to stress. It wasn’t until 1983 that researchers found that ulcers are caused by the bacteria H. pylori. However, 15% of stomach ulcers actually occur in people who do not have the bacteria. Also, only about 10% of people infected with the bacteria get ulcers. One theory is that the effect of chronic stress on the immune system lets the H. pylori bacteria thrive. Another theory is that exposure to stress changes the balance of bacteria in the gut allowing harmful bacteria to have the upper hand. This means that ulcers are ultimately the result of stress. Stress is also a critical factor in irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, heartburn, and Crohn’s disease.

              7. Back, Neck and Shoulder Pain

                Neck, shoulder, and back pain are among the most common and costly health complaints. Stress alone does not create this pain; however, stress can intensify the severity and duration of the pain. Musculoskeletal pain is particularly increased by workplace stress. Researchers aren’t sure why this occurs. However, people with stressful jobs report more back, neck and shoulder pain. The theory is that stress-induced inflammation prevents the full healing power to make the pain decrease.

                In case you are facing any of these above symptoms, you should see a doctor. If you are a busy individual juggling family and work pressures, online doctor services might be a good alternative to seeing a doctor physically. These kinds of services allow you to see a doctor at your own convenience.

                Featured photo credit: pressfoto via freepik.com

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                Vikas Agrawal

                Vikas is the co-founder of Infobrandz, an Infographic design agency that offers creative visual content solutions to medium to large companies.

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                Last Updated on January 13, 2020

                7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

                7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

                Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

                When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

                Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

                So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

                1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

                Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

                If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

                This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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                Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

                It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

                Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

                2. Get Enough Breaks

                Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

                Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

                Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

                3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

                There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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                When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

                Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

                4. Exercise Regularly

                Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

                Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

                In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

                In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

                This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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                5. Get Enough of the Right Food

                You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

                When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

                To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

                Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

                6. Drink Enough Water

                Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

                When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

                The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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                7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

                You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

                You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

                If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

                Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

                The Bottom Line

                Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

                These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

                More to Boost Your Brain Power

                Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

                Reference

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