5 ways stress damages your body and how to beat it

It often seems like there’s no escaping from the stress of day to day living, and with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s only gotten worse for most of us.

Unfortunately, stress does far more than just affect your mental state. It can also damage your health.

Here are the top five ways stress affects your body and how you can feel better each day.

#1 — Makes you gain weight

You’ve probably heard of the stress hormone cortisol.

Unfortunately, in addition to the role it plays in your fight or flight response, it also affects your metabolism and fat storage. Yes, simply being stressed for too long can cause you to pack on the pounds, especially if you combine stress with a bad diet or overeating.

In fact, a four-year study by researchers at UCL Epidemiology and Public Health found that people under long-term stress are far more likely to be obese.

That’s especially concerning right now considering that doctors are reporting a significantly increased COVID-19 danger for obese patients.

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#2 — Raises your blood pressure

High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. And stress could be the driving force behind your blood pressure problems.

That’s because according to the Mayo Clinic, although researchers are still searching for a conclusion on whether stress and long-term high blood pressure are linked, they do know that stress causes your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow.

It can also lead to behaviors such as smoking, drinking and eating an unhealthy diet that increase your high blood pressure risk.

And a study by researchers at Emory University found that psychological stress causes your body to pump out immune cells that raise systolic blood pressure (the top number in your blood pressure reading that gives the best picture of your heart attack and stroke risk).

#3 — Damages your brain and memory

Scientific research has proven that stress could be the cause of your memory issues.

Harvard Medical School says that stress is not only a common cause of memory problems, but it can also block the formation of new memories while impairing the retrieval of already formed memories.

And research reported in the Journal of Neuroscience found that chronic stress leads to brain inflammation and memory loss.

#4 — Worsens low back pain

If you live with low back pain, you might think that it’s already as bad as it can get. Think again!

A 2019 study that involved a one-year follow up with 284 patients suffering chronic low back pain found that added stress resulted in worsening pain and a higher chance of pain-related disability.

#5 — Lowers immune function

Finally, and possibly most important as the coronavirus pandemic rages across the U.S., is the fact that stress could leave you more vulnerable to viral infections.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, short-term stress can actually boost your immune system, but when stress becomes chronic, it has just the opposite effect. Instead, long-lasting stress actually boosts inflammation and reduces the number of lymphocytes available to fight off viruses.

Natural stress-busters

Now that you know how damaging stress is to you physically, what can you do about it?

And luckily there are some easy and natural answers (no anti-anxiety medications necessary).

First, despite all the craziness in the world right now, it’s important to maintain a routine. This can help you to feel in control and limit your daily stress.

Next, be sure to stay active since regular exercise is a powerful stress-buster.

Finally, simply eating a healthy diet, limited sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and getting the sleep you need can help lower your stress levels.

Oh, and one more thing…

Research has shown that the amino acid L-theanine has the power to lower cortisol levels and squash stress, so taking 250 to 400 mg per day could help you better manage your stress to allow time for those lifestyle changes to make an impact. You should consider adding it to your daily supplement schedule.

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  1. Long-term stress linked to higher levels of obesity — UCL
  2. Stress and high blood pressure: What’s the connection? — Mayo Clinic
  3. Stress making your blood pressure rise? Blame your immune system — Emory University
  4. Blood pressure numbers — Blood Pressure UK
  5. Top 10 Myths About Cardiovascular Disease — American Heart Association
  6. 7 common causes of forgetfulness — Harvard Medical School
  7. Chronic stress leads to brain inflammation and memory loss — Medical News Today
  8. The Impact of Anxiety and Depression on the Outcomes of Chronic Low Back Pain Multidisciplinary Pain Management-A Multicenter Prospective Cohort Study in Pain Clinics With One-Year Follow-up — American Academy of Pain Medicine
  9. Effects of Stress on the Immune System — Immunol Today
  10. What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out? — Cleveland Clinic
  11. Stress management — Mayo Clinic
  12. Health Benefits of Having a Routine — Northwestern Medicine
  13. Tips to Reduce Stress and Sleep Better — WebMD
  14. The best supplement for stress, anxiety and sleep — Easy Health Options
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.