You are stuck in the traffic and late for an urgent meeting, seeing the minutes tick away. A tiny control tower in your brain called hypothalamus sends the stress hormones. These hormones are similar to the ones that activate the body’s “fight or flight” response. Your breath quickens, your heart races and your muscles set for action.
This is the designed response to protect the body in an emergency by making you react fast. However, when the stress response keeps coming, day after day, it could lead you to serious health risk.
Even though much has been made of the different ways that men and women react to stress, there are also considerable differences in how stress influence women’s health when compared to men’s. Women vary from men not only in their sensitive responses to stress but also that acute and chronic stress can take a larger toll on women’s’ mental and physical health.
When responding to stressors, the body discharges hormones called cortisol, which is known to influence the digestive system, immune system, skin, etc. The cortisol responses to psychological stress also been shown to vary between men and women. Stress can upset almost every system in the body, and it may damage your health in further ways than you understand.
Below are 7 ways by which stress can mess with a woman’s body
1. You Can’t Remember Anything
The stress that happens when you feel a threat to you or your loved one’s life is known as traumatic stress. It feels like extreme fear or weakness and influences the area of your brain called hippocampus where the memories are stored. This kind of stress makes the hippocampus to in fact shrink, making it hard to remember lists, facts, the totality of an event, or extensive gaps of time (like minutes to days). Also, the harm from stress can make it tough to build new memories.
2. Acne and Hair Loss
Elevated levels of cortisol in the body can lead to excess oil production that adds to the growth of acne breakouts. A 2003 study detected that female college student got more breakouts in the course of exam times due to increased stress.
When you are actually freaking out, sex hormones levels known as androgens in the body spike and trigger acne outbreaks. You can use birth control to keep breakouts in check or topical treatments when they happen. In addition to blemishes on your face, stress can also cause rashes on the other parts of your body. That is due to anxiety which causes a mess on your immune system, which can cause eczema or lead to skin infections like staph.
Major psychological or emotional stress can lead to a physiological difference which causes hair loss. Stress can upset the hair life cycle, triggering it to go into its falling-out phase. While you may not see hair loss during or instantly after a period of stress, the changes can happen four to six months later.
3. Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Stress hormones can disturb your cardiovascular system. In the course of the stress response, you breathe quicker in an effort to rapidly distribute oxygen-rich blood to the body. If you previously have a breathing issue like emphysema or asthma, stress can make it even tougher to breathe.
During stress, your heart also pumps quicker. Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to tighten and divert more oxygen to the muscles so you will have extra strength to take action. However, this also increases your blood pressure.
Due to this, recurrent or chronic stress will make your heart work excessively for a longer period of time. When your blood pressure increases, so do your risks of having a heart attack or stroke. Even though numerous traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, affect men and women, other factors like stress, smoking, menopause, pregnancy complications can play a higher role in the development of heart disease in women.
4. It Makes You Exhausted
Apart from the fact that your anxiety may be keeping you up at night, freaking out activates your brain to release the hormone -cortisol- into the bloodstream. This useful chemical speeds up your heartbeat giving the brain extra oxygen, and releases more energy to aid your body handle that stress. However, recurrent stress can lead your brain to limit the quantity of cortisol it directs into your bloodstream, which can make you lethargic all day and every day. The good news is that nearly three hours a week of working out must keep cortisol hormone levels in control. So get moving.
5. Sexuality and Reproductive System
Stress is fatiguing for both the mind and body. It is not uncommon to lose your desire when you are in continuous stress. While temporary stress may cause men to generate more of the male hormone testosterone, this outcome does not last.
If stress lasts for a long time, a man’s testosterone levels can start to fall. This can interfere with the production of sperm and leads to erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may also raise the risk of infection for male reproductive organs such as testes and prostate.
For women, stress can upset the menstrual cycle. It can cause heavier, irregular, or more aching periods. Chronic stress can also increase the physical signs of menopause.
Many of us are aware of that feeling of tossing and turning at night, constantly thinking over the happenings of the day or problems at work. Naturally, stress is a basic cause of insomnia, which can, in turn, lead to irritability, frustration, difficulty concentrating and lack of motivation.
See your situation as a challenge to confront rather than a threat. This aids you to get into an active, decision-making approach rather than stay in an anxious, inactive state.
7. It Makes You Gain Weight
Research has related higher levels of cortisol to a lower waist-to-hip ratio in women which means more weight all over the tummy area, as well as a reduced metabolism. High-stress levels are also linked to increased appetite and sugar cravings, which can cause weight gain.
A University of Kentucky study found that dieters who got educated on stress-management strategies were more effective at losing weight than dieters who didn’t. The association between reducing stress and losing weight might be that it aids to cut back on stress-related binge eating. Also, women who were continuously stressed out absorbed fat and sugar in a different way than those who were not anxiety-ridden.
Women of all ages must take heart disease seriously. Women under 65, and particularly those with a family history of heart disease, required to pay close attention to heart disease risk causes.
Control stress and heart-related problems by following a few lifestyle changes like:
- Increase the physical activity by going for daily walks
- Start a food diary, and eat more green leafy vegetables and cut back on fatty and sugary foods
- Decrease your quantity of alcohol use, and make a plan to leave tobacco use
- Be aware of your numbers for lipids, blood pressure, and body mass index
- Have an annual physical check done, and talk to your doctor about any health worries, including stress