What Kind of Health Problems Can Stress Cause? (2023)

Stress is a normal part of life, but long-term stress can lead to physical and emotional problems. There are some simple things you can do to reduce stress and improve your health.

The body responds to stress by releasing hormones. These hormones make your brain more alert, cause your muscles to tense and increase your pulse.

1. High blood pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common but dangerous health problem that affects many people. It makes the heart work harder and increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney problems.

Your blood pressure is measured with a cuff that fits around your upper arm. The doctor inflates the cuff, stops the flow of blood into the artery for a moment, and lets it out again.

You have high blood pressure if the systolic (top) number is greater than 140 or the diastolic (bottom) number is greater than 90.

In some cases, your doctor may diagnose you with primary hypertension -- that is, you have high blood pressure without any other medical problem. Your doctor will treat your primary hypertension with lifestyle changes and medication, if needed.

You can help lower your blood pressure by relaxing and practicing mind-body techniques, such as meditation. These techniques have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

2. Heart disease

Heart disease is a broad term that includes a range of problems with the heart and blood vessels. It's caused by many things, but the most common are high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), chest pain and heart attacks.

A heart attack or stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your heart muscle is blocked. It is a medical emergency, but you can survive it.

Your risk of heart disease depends on how old you are, your family's history of heart disease and the kind of heart condition you have. Some things that you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and controlling other health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Some heart conditions develop during your childhood and affect the way your heart works or its structure. These defects are called congenital heart disease and can include abnormalities of the valves, walls or muscles near the heart. Some of these can go undiagnosed for a long time.

3. Depression

Everyone has spells of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you can feel persistently sad for weeks or months at a time. While some people think depression is trivial, it is a real illness that affects about one in ten people at some point in their lives.

The way you handle stress can make a difference between feeling normal and developing depression. Some people are more vulnerable to depression than others, and this is probably due to genetics or early life experiences that have affected their brain chemistry.

While stress is often a natural response to new and unusual situations, prolonged or repetitive exposure to high-stress environments can lead to symptoms of depression.

This may be because the body continues to release stress chemicals long after the stressful event has passed, causing weight gain, hypertension, and a suppressed immune system. It can also cause damage to neurons and affect the way your brain functions. In addition, the chronic release of these hormones may contribute to a loss of neuroplasticity - the ability of the brain to change its structure and function.

4. Anxiety

Various factors, including genetics, personality, and support systems can affect the stress response. Some people are more prone to anxiety and can experience it as a chronic problem that interferes with their everyday life.

Anxiety can also have a negative effect on your health, as it may trigger or worsen certain types of conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It can even lead to nausea and digestive problems.

It's important to see your doctor about your anxiety and stress before they get worse. Early treatment is easier and more effective.

In some cases, you may need to take a medication to treat your anxiety. Your doctor will be able to help you determine which medications are best for you. Alternative techniques, such as mindfulness and yoga, can also be used to reduce your symptoms.

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