In the active world we live in, with unending work and responsibilities that increase, stress can cripple even the best of us. But, how bad is it for you? Can that pressure actually kill you?
From a biological context, it makes perfect sense. If you’re about to get attacked by a bear, your stress hormones better get your rear into gear. But, it turns out that your financial debts, unemployment or imminent exam all trigger the same reaction in your body. And contrasted to most animals, which sooner or later experience a major decrease in these hormones, humans can’t seem to find the off switch!
Even though it’s not life and death, our psychological burdens consistently flood our bodies in these hormones, making our heart race, muscles tense and stomach turn for the worst.
In Japan, they have the term Karoshi, which literally translates to “death from overwork”. In what is now considered an overworking epidemic, these people who are seemingly healthy and in their prime, unexpectedly died. After being officially recognized and documented in Japan, these unexpected heart attacks and strokes were swiftly associated with stress.
But, how can stress cause this?
Cortisol is one of the major stress hormones, which helps redirect energy to where you need it and away from unnecessary, at that time, functions of the body. But, with constant stress exposure, problems begin:
The immune system shuts down, inflammation is inhibited, white blood cells are decreased in number and weakness to disease increases. Some evidence also points out that prolonged stress may be linked to the development of cancer.
When studying the arteries of macaque monkeys, those under powerful stress have more clogged arteries. This prevents blood from going to the heart swiftly and can ultimately lead to heart attacks.
The brain also takes a beating from all of this; When examining mice exposed to stress, we see dramatically smaller brain cells, with fewer branch extensions then regular mice. This is particularly common in the area related to memory and learning. Which may bring up several memories for you of those amazing and pleasant all night study sessions; The accumulation of stress and sleep deprivation can make it increasingly difficult to remember things we want to.
Telomeres & DNA
Maybe the most significant story is in our DNA. We contain things called telomeres on the ends of our chromosomes, which shorten in size with age. Eventually, the telomeres run out, at that time the cell stops duplicating and dies. So, telomeres are directly linked to aging and length of life. And it turns out, stress may, in fact, speed up the shortening of these telomeres.
But not everything is lost for the endlessly stressed people out there. Another hormone, oxytocin, has been proven to reduce this stress response. It makes your blood vessels relax and even regenerates the heart from all that stress-related damage.
But, how do we get some more Oxytocin?
It’s sometimes called the “love hormone” because it’s released during positive social interactions and while caring for others. Folks who spend more time with others, gain resilience to stress.
So, when life is a little harsh on you, just remember, you don’t have to go through it alone. Spend some time with those you love – it may just save your life!
The above post was made from the following materials: