In the short term, stress can be advantageous, but chronic stress can be really lethal, causing heart attacks, stroke, irritable bowel syndrome and weight gain.
Dr. Sharon Horesh said, "When the body experiences stress for too long it can damage the body's organs and cells." In her Ted Ed video 'How stress affects the body', Dr. Horesh outlines the five ways a body can be affected by chronic stress, in addition to the more recognized ways such as acne, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, headaches, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.
‘Stress can lead to acne, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, headaches, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. Dr. Sharon Horesh has suggested that besides this chronic stress can also lead to heart attacks, stroke, irritable bowel syndrome and weight gain.’
The doctor suggested that the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released in to the blood stream by the adrenaline gland when a person experiences a stress response. Adrenaline increases the heartbeat and blood pressure and in the long term can cause hypertension, while long term release of cortisol in the blood can lead to cholesterol plaque build-up in the arteries. Both of these issues can lead to an increased chance of a heart attack or stroke.
Stress can also affect the intestinal nervous system, which can affect the way food is moved naturally moved through the gut and can lead to irritable bowel syndrome. Cortisol can increase a person's appetite and cravings for comfort foods, which tend to be energy dense and carb-loaded, leading to weight gain. High levels of cortisol cause visceral fat weight gain. This kind of fat releases hormones and immune system chemicals that can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease.
Dr. Horesh said, "Chronic stress can deplete the effectiveness of immune cells and increase the risk of infection. This can also slow down the rate that the body heals."