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Tension can go straight to your head—and your back and your belly and… everywhere. Why panic? Learn the simple strategies that keep crazy days from wreaking havoc on your system.

the type with a high-octane life who has no idea that her are sabotaging her health. “One woman had two kids and worked 80 hours a week,” recalls Domar, who is executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Waltham, Mass. “She came to me because she was thinking of trying for a third child and was concerned about her irregular periods—but when I took a complete history, I found out that she had a host of physical symptoms, including frequent headaches and . It never occurred to her that they had anything to do with her intense lifestyle.”

That’s the insidious thing about stress: It infiltrates our bodies even as our heads are spinning. And it’s ever-present; The American Psychological Association reports that 42 percent of Americans say their stress levels have shot up in the last five years. Left untreated,, including heart disease, depression, anxiety and diabetes. It could even speed up the spread of breast and ovarian cancers, research suggests. Untamed tension may also pop up as aches and ills that make us feel crummy on a daily basis.

As annoying as those eye twitches and stomach knots are, we should be thanking our bodies for the heads-up, doctors say. “Physical symptoms that accompany stress are part of the body’s warning system,” notes Darshan Mehta, MD, medical director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Institute for Mind-Body Medicine in Boston. They nudge you to take better care of yourself. Ahead, everything you’ve wondered about stress and your health but were too frazzled to ask.

Why does stress have a physical effect if it’s a mental thing?

Forget your tyrant boss; blame the woolly rhinoceros. “Stress activates a psychophysiologic response—the mind perceives a threat or emergency and your body reacts,” explains Michael McKee, PhD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. You’re probably familiar with the fight-or-flight effect: Your system churns out the stress chemicals adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, causing your heart to race and blood pressure to increase as oxygen goes to your large muscles. In the Stone Age, this response would save us from danger. Today it basically causes our brain to overreact, interpreting mildly stressful situations (like planning  for 25 people) as run-for-the-hills emergencies. Over time, constantly cycling into a revved-up state can cause wear and tear on the heart, muscles and brain.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University recently discovered why frequently having high levels of cortisol can do damage. Cortisol helps turn off inflammation in the body, but prolonged stress makes immune cells insensitive to the hormone’s regulatory effect. As a result, the inflammatory response that the immune system normally launches to protect the body goes into overdrive. That excess inflammation may lead to everything from the common cold to, in the long run, heart attacks, stroke and autoimmune disorders. One new study revealed that people under significant pressure at work had a 45 percent higher risk of

Do events like a death or divorce affect you more than everyday hassles?

Both acute stress and the daily kind can do harm, weakening your immunity and triggering flare-ups of migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis. “Chronic activation of your stress response can contribute to disease,” Dr. Mehta says. One study from Pennsylvania State University discovered that people who got distressed by little annoyances were more likely to have chronic health conditions such as arthritis-induced pain 10 years later.

A key aid to weathering life’s drama: friends. Research shows that when faced with a big upset, many of us cope by leaning on social supports; that dramatically reduces stress and strengthens resilience. Thing is, little hassles have a way of getting under your skin—you’re not receiving support for the irritation you feel about a long grocery store line (except maybe from your mother).

Stress makes my lower back ache. My husband gets headaches. Why is that?

Everyone has his or her weak health spot. Think about it: Maybe you always get chest colds, say, while your husband sails through winter with just the sniffles (but he’s knocked flat by stomach bugs). “Stress impacts all your systems—musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, gastro-intestinal, respiratory, everything,” McKee says. “But some systems are stronger than others, and stress produces the worst symptoms in the most vulnerable ones.”


Source by Moni

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