Stress Kills

Stress is something that affects us all. No matter how much we try to avoid it, the “s-word” will eventually come into our lives and try to disrupt our day. Some people use stress to their advantage. For those of who’ve stayed up really late typing a paper in college in order to meet an 8am deadline; you’ll know that the adrenaline pumping through your veins carried you through the night. Stress can be a catalyst for good, but if not managed correctly it can destroy every part of your body without you knowing it. As a wife, mother, doctor, business owner, author and every other hat that I wear, I know firsthand what it’s like to be stressed. Thankfully I’ve developed a wellness routine that allows me to manage these stressors, but if not I could very well be on the way to having sleepless nights or even worse a heart attack.

When patients come to my office I spend a good portion of my time looking at their lifestyle.

How much are you sleeping?
What is your workload like at your job?
Any bad news you’ve received recently?
Happy? Sad?

I ask them everything not to be nosey, but to understand the full realm of the issue at hand. We’re unconsciously stressed at times, but the body is always receptive and responding.

Here are 5 ways that stress is affecting you.

Weight Gain
We’ve all been there, a breakup, losing a job, the death of a loved one or just plain ole life happenings that come out of nowhere. Nothing prepares you for the aforementioned and just like that you’re stressed and on the couch looking at the time pass you by. Some people stop eating altogether and some eat everything in sight. Whether you’re doing either, the body is still storing fat. Cortisol is the reason for this. This hormone is released in response to stress or fear as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism in your body. Mostly every cell in your body has cortisol receptor sites. When you’re extremely stressed the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal gland release this hormone. High levels of cortisol in the body cause weight gain, especially in the belly area. If you find yourself stressed and feeling the urge to eat, keep healthy snacks around instead of the normal Nutter Butters you reach for in your time of duress.

Sleepless Nights
Getting the right amount of sleep is necessary to living a healthy life. Your body needs time to replenish and reset, and when you don’t sleep it makes you and your body work harder to catch up. Stress can cause hyperarousal, a biological state in which a person doesn’t feel sleepy. It’s important to find techniques that help you manage your stress because if not you’re in for a night of tossing and turning. Long-term, chronic stress leads to sleeping disorders.

Diabetes
Black people suffer disproportionately from a number of diseases, diabetes being one of them. In fact, they’re 1.7 times more likely than their white counterparts to contract diabetes. Stress has been shown to raise your blood sugar, and it goes even higher when under stress. People suffering from type-2 diabetes who experience mental stress generally have increased blood glucose levels. Type-1 diabetes has a different more varied response to mental stress. They can experience a decrease or an increase in blood glucose levels. Physical stress causes the blood sugar to rise in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Sex Drive
As much as sex is physical, the mental component of sex is equally as important. The two work hand in hand to create a beautiful, enjoyable experience for you and your partner. When you’re anxious, nervous, scared, sad or any other unwanted emotion, the body sends out the flight mechanism cortisol. Yes, cortisol has come to disrupt your daily life once again. High cortisol levels can cause a drop in the male libido and can cause erectile dysfunction. In women, it causes thyroid and testosterone issues which affect their sex drive as well.

Premature Aging
Stressful life events can make a person wise up, or they can make a 21-year-old person look 62. Stress causes the cells to age. Every human cell has 46 chromosomes and each chromosome has two protective caps called telomeres. When telomeres become shorter, the integrity of the cap weakens and causes the cell to age faster and die prematurely. When this happens your skin will start to look older, energy levels won’t be as high and every other thing that’s synonymous with aging.