Sexuality And Reproductive System
Stress is exhausting for both the body and mind. Its not unusual to lose your desire when youre under constant stress. While short-term stress may cause men to produce more of the male hormone testosterone, this effect doesnt last.
If stress continues for a long time, a mans testosterone levels can begin to drop. This can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may also increase risk of infection for male reproductive organs like the prostate and testes.
For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. It can lead to irregular, heavier, or more painful periods. Chronic stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.
Take Action: Get Active
Regular physical activity can help prevent and manage stress. It can also help relax your muscles and improve your mood. So get active:
- Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity try going for a bike ride or taking a walk
- Do strengthening activities like push-ups or lifting weights at least 2 days a week
Remember, any amount of physical activity is better than none!
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How Does Stress Affect Pregnancy
It is normal to feel stressed during pregnancy. Your body and your hormones are changing, and you may worry about your baby and the changes he or she will bring to your life. But too much stress during pregnancy can hurt you and your babys health.
Stress during pregnancy can make normal pregnancy discomforts, like trouble sleeping and body aches, even worse. It can also lead to more serious problems, such as:
- Depression. Depression during pregnancy or after birth can affect your babys development. Learn more about depression during and after pregnancy.
- Problems eating . Women who are underweight or who gain too much weight during pregnancy are at risk for complications, including premature delivery and gestational diabetes. Get a personalized recommendation on how much weight to gain during pregnancy.
- High blood pressure. High blood pressure during pregnancy puts you at risk of a serious condition called preeclampsia, premature delivery, and having a low-birth-weight infant .
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Surprising Ways That Stress Affects Your Brain
Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
Stress is a familiar and common part of daily life. Stress happens each and every day and comes in a wide variety of forms. It might be the stress of trying to juggle family, work, and school commitments. It might involve issues like health, money, and relationships.
In each instance where we face a potential threat, our minds and bodies go into action, mobilizing to either deal with the issues or avoid the problem .
You have probably heard all about how bad stress is for your mind and body. It can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and chest pain. It can produce mood problems such as anxiety or sadness. It can even lead to behavioral problems such as outbursts of anger or overeating.
What you might not know is that stress can also have a serious impact on your brain. In the face of stress, your brain goes through a series of reactionssome good and some baddesigned to mobilize and protect itself from potential threats. Sometimes stress can help sharpen the mind and improve the ability to remember details about what is happening.
Stress can have negative effects on the body and brain. Research has found that stress can produce a wide range of negative effects on the brain ranging from contributing to mental illness to actually shrinking the volume of the brain.
Stress Weakens Your Immune System
The connection between mind and body is often underestimated. But everyone has experienced a cold when they can least afford to.
Thats because the high demands stress puts on the body make the immune system suffer, which makes you more vulnerable to colds and infections.
The American Psychological Association recommends calming exercises, as well as social outlets, to relieve stress.
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Stress And Your Heart
The real connection between stress and heart disease, and what to do if you’re under too much pressure.
You’re stuck in traffic, late to an important appointment. Your breath quickens. Your heart races. Your muscles tense. As your anxiety builds, you might even feel like you’re on the verge of having a heart attack.
What you’re experiencing is the phenomenon Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon once termed the “fight-or-flight” response. In a stressful situation, your body releases a flood of chemicals such as cortisol and epinephrine , which prepare your body for action. If the car in front of you were to burst into flames, you’d be ready to leap from your car and flee. But the reaction is counterproductive when you’re just waiting in traffic.
Chronic stresswhether from a traffic-choked daily commute, unhappy marriage, or overbearing bosshas been linked to a wide range of harmful health effects. It can interfere with your mood, sleep, and appetite. But can stress cause heart disease?
Shoulders Head And Jaw
The effects of stress in your body can move through the tension triangle, which includes your shoulders, head and jaw.
Stress can trigger tension headaches, tightness in the neck and jaw, and knots and spasms in your neck and shoulders, says Dr. Lang. It also may contribute to TMJ, a jaw disorder.
Ask your doctor about remedies such as stress management, counseling or anxiety-reducing medicine.
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Heart Health Apps To Download Now
But even short-term stress can have a profound impact on your heart if its bad enough. The condition cardiomyopathy, also known as broken-heart syndrome, is a weakening of the heart’s left ventricle that usually results from severe emotional or physical stress.
Although the condition is in general rare, 90 percent of cases are in women.
Cardiomyopathy can occur in very stressful situations, such as after a huge fight, the death of a child, or other major triggers, Dr. Haythe says. Patients come into the emergency room with severe chest pain and other symptoms of what we call acute heart failure syndrome, though their coronary arteries are clear. They can be very sick, but with treatment, most of the time, people recover.
The Effects Of Stress On Your Body
Youre sitting in traffic, late for an important meeting, watching the minutes tick away. Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order: Send in the stress hormones! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your bodys fight or flight response. Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk.
Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.
Yet if your stress response doesnt stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include:
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Possible Causes Of Stress
Stress affects people differently, and the things that cause stress vary from person to person.
The level of stress you are comfortable with may be higher or lower than that of other people around you. Stressful feelings typically happen when we feel we do not have the resources to manage the challenges we face.
Pressure at work, school or home, illness, or difficult or sudden life events can all lead to stress.
Some possible causes of stress are:
- our individual genes, upbringing and experiences
- difficulties in our personal lives and relationships
- big or unexpected life changes, like moving house, having a baby or starting to care for someone
- money difficulties, like debt or struggling to afford daily essentials
- health issues, either for you or someone close to you
- pregnancy and children
Stress And Gastrointestinal Complications
The effects of stress on nutrition and the gastrointestinal system can be summarized with two aspects of GI function.
First, stress can affect appetite . This effect is related to involvement of either the ventral tegmental area , or the amygdala via N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors . However, it should also be noted that nutrition patterns have effects on the response to stress , and this suggests a bilateral interaction between nutrition and stress.
Stress can also alter the functional physiology of the intestine . Many inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and other ulcerative-based diseases of the GI tract, are associated with stress . It has been suggested that even childhood stress can lead to these diseases in adulthood . Irritable bowel syndrome, which is a disease with an inflammatory origin, is highly related to stress . Studies on various animals suggest the existence of inflammatory GI diseases following induction of severe stress . Additionally, pharmacological interventions, in an attempt to decrease the response of CRH to stress, have been shown to result in an increase in GI diseases in rats .
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Stress Changes The Brain’s Structure
The results of these experiments also revealed that chronic stress can lead to long-term changes in the structure and function of the brain.
The brain is made up of neurons and support cells, known as “gray matter” responsible for higher-order thinking such as and problem-solving. But the brain also contains what is known as “white matter,” which is made up of all the axons that connect with other regions of the brain to communicate information.
White matter is so named due to the fatty, white sheath known as myelin that surrounds the axons that speed up the electrical signals used to communicate information throughout the brain.
The overproduction of myelin that the researchers observed due to the presence of chronic stress doesn’t just result in a short-term change in the balance between white and gray matterit can also lead to lasting changes in the brain’s structure.
Doctors and researchers have previously observed that people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder also have brain abnormalities including imbalances in gray and white matter.
Psychologist Daniela Kaufer, the researcher behind these experiments, suggests that not all stress impacts the brain and neural networks in the same way.Good stress, or the type of stress that helps you perform well in the face of a challenge, helps to wire the brain in a positive way, leading to stronger networks and greater resilience.
Q: What About Energy Levels
Dr. Sinha: Chronic stress can also make you tired. Your adrenal glands act like battery packs they provide energy-producing substances such as adrenaline on demand, a key part of the stress response. Unfortunately, many people overuse these limited battery reserves with endless work and personal demands, leaving them depleted. The result: fatigue.
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Stress And Immune System Functions
The relationship between stress and the immune system has been considered for decades . The prevailing attitude between the association of stress and immune system response has been that people under stress are more likely to have an impaired immune system and, as a result, suffer from more frequent illness . Also, old anecdotes describing resistance of some people to severe disease using the power of the mind and their thought processes, has promoted this attitude . In about 200 AC, Aelius Galenus declared that melancholic women are more likely to have cancer than women who were more positive and exposed to less stress . This may be the first recorded case about the relationship between the immune system and stress. In an old study in the early 1920’s, researchers found that the activity of phagocytes in tuberculosis decreased when emotional stress was induced. In fact, it was also suggested that living with stress increases the risk of tuberculosis by suppressing the immune system . Following this study, other researchers suggested that the probability of disease appearance increases following a sudden, major, and extremely stressful life style change .
Getting Sick More Easily
If the body is busy dealing with the constant threat of stress, Lin says the immune system can easily get run down, which means someone might catch sickness more easily.
When youre stressed, your body is on hyper-alert all the time because its waiting for a treat, she says. So when you get exposed to a virus or another infection, youre not able to fight it as well because your resources have been stretched.
One scientific theory about why stress weakens the immune response has to do with lowered white blood cells the stress hormone, cortisol, reduces the number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight sickness.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Stress
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions. So it is important to discuss them with your doctor. You may experience any of the following symptoms of stress.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself , lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioral symptoms of stress include:
- Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
Signs Of Prolonged Stress
Long-term, prolonged stress can have a number of different effects on a person’s body and mind. Some signs of prolonged stress include:
- Slow recovery from illness or infection
- Trouble sleeping
Such symptoms may vary in intensity. Many of these symptoms may become worse over time as the stress continues to take its toll.
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The Good News About Stress
Not all stress is bad, and the hormones that the body produces in response to stress aren’t, either. Their levels actually fluctuate throughout the day as you adapt to challenges such as waking up , getting stuck in traffic, or being surprised for your birthday.
Its also possible to manage stress by doing small things like deep breathing, taking a walk, listening to a meditation app, or even grabbing your childs fidget spinner to distract yourself from whatevers stressing you out. Any of these strategies can help short-circuit the bodys fight-or-flight response, stopping the flood of stress hormones from revving up your blood pressure and heart rate.
Signs And Symptoms Of Stress Overload
The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You dont notice how much its affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. Thats why its important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.
- Other mental or emotional health problems
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Loss of sex drive
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from others
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits
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Do Women React To Stress Differently Than Men Do
Yes, studies show that women are more likely than men to experience symptoms of stress. Women who are stressed are more likely than men who are stressed to experience depression and anxiety.21 Experts do not fully know the reason for the differences, but it may be related to how mens and womens bodies process stress hormones. Long-term stress especially is more likely to cause problems with moods and anxiety in women.22
Stress Management: What Can You Do About It
- Stress is a fact of life. A 2017 American Psychological Association survey found that a whopping 71% of respondents reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress over the past month. And stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse.
- Sometimes we stress over good things, like a long line at a brunch spot, a new job, an upcoming wedding or a new baby. And other times, its over not-so-good things like being sick, working too much or family drama.
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Can Stress Management Help
Yes. The strongest evidence for the benefits of stress management springs from heart disease studies. One Medicare-sponsored study published in the American Heart Journal examined two nationally recognized programsthe Cardiac Wellness Program of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine and the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease. Both programs aim to improve heart health through lifestyle modifications, including stress management, exercise, and nutrition counseling.
At the end of the three-year study, participants had lost weight, reduced their blood pressure levels, improved cholesterol levels, and reported greater psychological well-being. Both programs also appeared to improve cardiac function. Whats more, participants in the Benson-Henry program also had lower death rates and were less likely to be hospitalized for heart problems, compared with controls.
Even after youve had a heart attack or heart surgery, stress management can help by bolstering the benefits of cardiac rehabilitationa supervised program to help people recover after such an event.