When people say stress is bad for you, that is because feeling overwhelmed can affect everything health related, from digestion to stroke risk. It’s the same as people saying that lots of sleep or eating more fiber is important. But it is hard to keep track of all these valid points when it is not immediately clear for us how they will make us healthier.
A new video from TED Ed, written by Sharon Bergquist, professor of medicine at Emory University, tells us how worrying can affect our body and what do scientists know about the connection between stress and sickness.
The video explains that when you are stressed, the adrenal glands release more cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Cortisol causes changes in the blood vessels that can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, adrenaline speeds up the heart rate and can raise blood pressure. All the while, the brain sends the stress signals to the gut, which changes its routine and focuses on the stressor. It is then that you experience the “butterflies in the stomach” feeling, which can later lead to digestive problems and can affect the composition of gut bacteria.
Cortisol can also increase appetite, which would make your body put on deep-belly fat. This fat releases cytokines, compounds that raise the risk of developing chronic diseases. When you experience chronic stress, you immune system will function less efficiently, slowing healing times and making you more vulnerable to infections.
All in all, stress is most damaging for people who experience it on a daily basis. What Bergquist recommends is to view the things that stress you “as challenges you can control and master.”