How Stress Can Make You Sick

It’s perfectly normal to experience stress now and then, such as when a major medical problem arises or when one’s schedule gets hectic. But stress isn’t always benign. Chronic stress, often referred to as toxic stress, can exact a heavy toll on one’s overall health. If you have concerns about your health and you live in the West Hills area, consider speaking with one of the dedicated providers at West Hills Hospital.

Understanding the Stress Response
When a person encounters a stressor or perceived threat, the body rapidly goes through a series of physiological responses and hormonal changes that are intended to facilitate survival by enabling the person to fight or flee. This is known as the “fight or flight” response or stress response. The stress response is beneficial when people do face dire situations. Unfortunately, individuals experience the stress response to everyday stressors such as traffic jams, family tension, and workplace problems. The repeated activation of the stress response can contribute to ill health effects.

Assessing the Problems of Long-Term Stress
The activation of the stress response triggers the release of nerve chemicals and hormones that increase respiration, heart rate, and pulse. The brain begins to use more oxygen and the muscles tense up. These physiological changes are problematic on a long-term basis because certain bodily functions are suppressed, including the immune, digestive, reproductive, and excretory systems. The elevation of the hormones cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline also cause harmful changes. Adrenaline increases blood pressure. Cortisol encourages undesirable blood vessel changes increases appetite, and triggers the body to store more belly fat.

Identifying Specific Health Consequences
All of these alterations in proper bodily function can have a range of health consequences. Not everyone will experience the same consequences to the same degree, but in general, chronic stress is thought to contribute to overweight and obesity, frequent infections, heart disease, stroke, anxiety disorders, and clinical depression.

West Hills Hospital is your family’s partner in wellness this holiday season. Our fully equipped hospital in West Hills is a leading provider of emergency care, cancer care, maternity health services, and many other specialties. For general information about our lines of service, you can call our Consult-A-Nurse line at (818) 676-4321 or browse our website.

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