The Hidden Health Consequences of Chronic Stress: 7 Things to Know

stressed woman

Stress isn’t just unpleasant; it also has far-reaching health consequences that can be hard to detect until it’s too late. It’s not uncommon for mental and physical ailments to pile up before anyone realizes there is an underlying thread connecting them all, which is often chronic stress. Understanding the hidden effects of this chronic condition is critical because they are not always immediately apparent. The good news is that with a bit of knowledge and awareness, it’s possible to prevent or manage these effects before they become serious health problems. This article will explore seven hidden health consequences, including the potential physical and mental symptoms you may be experiencing without realizing their root cause.

Disrupted Sleep Quality

When you don’t get enough quality sleep, your body’s natural clock is thrown off balance. This leads to further disruptions in hormones and other biological processes responsible for maintaining good health. Stress hormones like cortisol increase during times of stress, and these hormones interfere with the production of melatonin, resulting in decreased quality of sleep. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to simultaneously reduce stress and increase your chances of slumber without resorting to pharmaceuticals. For example, you can use various legal cannabis products to help you fall into a more restful sleep (particularly if you opt for Indica strains over the more energetic Sativa). Additionally, focusing on relaxation techniques both before bed and during the day, such as mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises, can significantly impact. 

Heightened Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease

Another unintended consequence of prolonged stress (and possibly one of the most dangerous) is its ability to increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Long-term stress can lead to an array of issues, such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and even heart attack and stroke. The problem arises from how your body responds when you experience increased and consistent cortisol levels. The autonomic nervous system activates the “fight or flight” response, causing the body to produce more of these stress hormones. Over time, this physiological response can damage our hearts, arteries, and veins resulting in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lower Immunity Levels

When you experience chronic or acute stress, your body produces higher levels of the hormones responsible for blood pressure, and your heart rate increases. These hormones also put your immune system into overdrive, leaving it impaired and unable to fight off disease and illness as efficiently as it needs to. The same hormones that increase during these heightened periods of tension also impact your body’s ability to produce healthy white blood cells, which are essential to fight off infections. Additionally, if these hormone levels remain high on an ongoing basis, they will start to suppress the function of other immune cells and important proteins like cytokines that help support your immune system.

very stressed

Problems With Digestion

When under chronic stress, the body produces a raft of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that, in small doses, can be beneficial for specific situations but also causes you to tense up ( the last thing you want is to have to go to the bathroom!). This tension in your digestive system (especially in the stomach) can cause problems with how your body breaks down food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste products, leading to uncomfortable digestive symptoms like cramping, gas, bloating, and constipation. 

Accelerated Aging, Both Physically And Mentally

As you can see so far, the effects of persistent stress are far-reaching. Nevertheless, one of the most significant impacts is accelerated aging. Prolonged stress can reduce the length of your telomeres, which are the DNA segments at the end of chromosomes that protect your genetic data. As time passes, these telomeres become shorter until they reach a critical length that can trigger a cell’s death or deterioration. Over time, this will make you look older and significantly shorten your lifespan.

Mood Swings That Compound Issues

While it’s normal to have ups and downs, people with chronic stress find themselves excessively reactive and easily provoked. Mood swings amplify underlying issues leading to destructive behavior fueled by their emotions. This can also cause severe problems with your loved ones, further compound the situation, and cause a vicious cycle that only leads in one direction. Moreover, if you dedicate too much to keeping up with your daily responsibilities while also maintaining order at work or home, they use up more energy reserves, thus leaving them vulnerable to fatigue-related issues.

Guide created by Scottsdale Mental Health & Wellness, fill out this mental health assessment online for more information.

Memory Issues That Can Interfere With Your Daily Activities

Memory issues can be one of the most apparent and interfering consequences of chronic stress. When you’re under extreme distress, your brain’s ability to store and retain information becomes impaired, resulting in memory issues. Additionally, sudden overwhelming stressors caused by the adrenaline rush can temporarily impair your working memory, making it more challenging to function normally.

Chronic stress is an invisible enemy that can have far-reaching implications for your physical and mental health. Taking proactive steps to reduce stress in our lives, such as getting more sleep, exercising regularly, and engaging in calming activities, is the best way to prevent long-term problems from arising.