How can stress affect your health?

Stress is a part of life for many people. You might feel stressed by traffic jams, problems at work, or disagreements at home. For some people, a health condition is also a source of stress. Finding a healthy way to deal with stress is important. Unchecked, a source of stress can take a toll on your health.

Stress or anxiety has a biological impact on your body and mind. Your pituitary gland (at the base of your brain) and your adrenal glands (near your kidneys) release certain hormones. The hormones can affect your body in the following way:

Heart and Blood Vessels- your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and your cholesterol goes up. All can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Digestive System-stress affects your stomach and intestines, so you can get a stomach ache or diarrhea.

Immune System- your immune system might become weaker. This can result in more colds or infections.

Other Effects- skin conditions such as eczema, acne, or hives can get worse. Stress can also lead to an asthma attack.

What can you do

If the stress in your life is not likely to disappear, you need to think of how to manage that stress. The first step is to become aware of the sources of your stress. Then find the best ways to relieve that stress:

  • Get exercise- it's a natural stress reducer
  • Care for your body-eat right and get enough sleep
  • Have fun- make time to go out with friends or enjoy a favorite activity

Specific techniques might also help you relax in a healthy way. Ask your nurse to give you information about:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Positive thinking

Avoid trying to relieve stress with alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. And if you feel like stress is getting the best of you, talk to your doctor. You might benefit from a referral to another health professional.

Please check with your doctor or nurse before starting a diet or exercise program.