Stress-induced sickness can range from headaches to heart attacks, from fatigue to forgetfulness, digestive issues to depression and more. (Representational Image)

While mild stress can be positive and productive — it can make one perform better and within a deadline in academics or job — continuous chronic stress is highly detrimental, and can lead to a plethora of health problems.

Stress-induced sickness can range from headaches to heart attacks, from fatigue to forgetfulness, digestive issues to depression and more. Medical experts elaborate on the physical and psychological impact of stress.

Psychological impact

Chronic stress impacts the brain and its functioning. Dr P V Ramana, director and neurosurgeon, Institute of Neurosciences, Pinnacle Hospital, says, "Due to stress, the body releases the hormones, cortisol and adrenaline that induce physiological changes in the brain. Chronic stress has been linked to decrease in volume of grey matter in certain areas of the brain such as the hippocampus, frontal cortex and amygdala. These regions are involved in memory, learning and emotion regulation. Studies have shown that chronic stress can alter the connectivity between different regions of the brain, which ultimately affects cognitive and emotional processing. It can also impact the brain’s ability to adapt and change over time."

He elaborates, saying "Chronic stress has been linked to reduced neuroplasticity, which can ultimately impact learning and memory. Stress can also trigger inflammatory responses in the brain, which leads to damaged brain cells and impaired cognitive function and learning ability. Chronic stress also affects the balance of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norephedrine, which ultimately impacts the mood, behaviour, emotion, motivation and also cognitive function." .

Physiological impact

It has been found that almost every organ is negatively affected by stress. Dr Bharat Vijay Purohit, senior interventional cardiologist, Yashoda Hospitals, says, "Stress is the root cause of several ailments including  depression, insomnia, impaired concentration and memory, headache and hair fall. It causes skin to wrinkle and age faster, aggravates existing skin diseases like acne and psoriasis, and worsens sinusitis, cold, cough, and allergies. Chronic stress affects the gastrointestinal system, causing problems like acidity, indigestion, bloating, constipation, loose motion, ulcer, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. It  indirectly leads to obesity and diabetes. It also affects the lungs and precipitates asthma, breathing difficulties, feeling of suffocation etc. It can cause musculo-skeletal problems such as back pain, neck pain, fatigue, body pain, arthritis and so on. It will also lead to infertility issues and low libido."

Stress can precipitate heart attack

"That’s not all. Chronic stress can have a severe impact on the heart. Blood pressure and pulse rate go up. Patients get irregular heartbeats, weakness of the heart muscles or cardio-myopathy. Chronic stress can make a person more prone to heart attacks. It accelerates the wear and tear of cells. It could tempt people to lead an unhealthy lifestyle, develop unhealthy eating habits, smoke and drink more, spend nights without proper sleep, all of which send cholesterol levels up. Stress can also set the stage for blood clots to develop and thereby precipitate a heart attack," adds Dr Purohit.

Dialling down

  • As parents, prepare your children to handle stress better as part of life lessons. Don’t criticize children, but motivate them to cope with stress and help them differentiate between positive and negative stress.
  • Accept that stress exists and triggers various physical and psychological problems, which requires psychological counselling and in some cases, anti-anxiety medication.
  • Make lifestyle changes, opting for healthy food and sleep patterns.
  • Identify the triggers behind stress and deal with them as needed.
  • Meditate, exercise.
  • Pursue hobbies like music or art.
  • Take adequate rest, go on a digital detox once in a while and spend time with Nature or in a tranquil place.
  • Spend time with family, children, pets and other loved ones.

Chronic stress has been linked to reduced neuroplasticity, which can ultimately impact learning and memory. Stress can also trigger inflammatory responses in the brain, which leads to damaged brain cells and impaired cognitive function and learning ability."

— Dr P V Ramana, director and neurosurgeon, Institute of Neurosciences, Pinnacle Hospital

 

Stress is the root cause of several ailments including  depression, insomnia, impaired concentration and memory, headache and hair fall. It causes skin to wrinkle and age faster, aggravates existing skin diseases like acne and psoriasis, and worsens sinusitis, cold, cough, and allergies."

 

— Dr Bharat Vijay Purohit, senior interventional cardiologist, Yashoda Hospitals

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