High blood pressure, weight gain: How stress affects us

Health

(NewsNation) — The list of ways stress impacts our bodies is long and undesirable. It includes everything from high blood pressure to an increased risk of heart disease and even weight gain.

But there are ways to mitigate the five most common symptoms of stress on the body, according to Dr. Frita Fisher, founder of Midtown Atlanta Nephrology.

INCREASED BLOOD PRESSURE

Fisher told “NewsNation Prime” the No. 1 way stress affects the body is via increased blood pressure, which is the leading cause of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

“What happens is the stress causes the release of hormones like cortisol, adrenaline … this causes blood vessels to tighten and can lead to high blood pressure,” Fisher said.

HEADACHES AND LOW PRODUCTIVITY

This one may sound familiar to many Americans, as it is one of the most noticeable impacts of stress on the body.

Headaches and resultant low productivity are caused by a tightening and contracting of muscles in the head, Fisher said.

“This can lead to tension headaches. When you’re trying to be productive and work in your daily life and you’ve got headaches, it decreases your productivity.”

WEIGHT GAIN

Perhaps the least popular of all the symptoms of stress, weight gain is commonly associated with extra stress hitting the body.

This also comes from an increase in the release of the hormone cortisol in the body.

“First off, being stressed often causes people to eat comfort foods, foods that are high in fat, sugar and carbs,” Fisher said. “And when you have this increased stress hormone of cortisol, it causes you to hold on to your fat, not in places you may want to hold on to it.”

WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEM

In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, flu season and all the other illnesses floating around in the world, having a strong immune system is as important as ever. And stress can adversely affect that.

“Those stress hormones can cause a suppression or a decrease in your disease-fighting white blood cells like your lymphocytes,” Fisher said. “This can cause you to have a weakened immune system, be sicker for longer or even more severely.”

BROKEN HEART

Yes, that feeling you get when a significant other calls it quits or a loved one dies is very real and it can have a significant impact on your physical health.

There is even something called “broken heart syndrome,” Fisher said.

“We have often heard the cliché, ‘Oh, he died of a broken heart,’ but it can really happen,” Fisher said. “When you release the stress hormones of adrenaline, this can cause the tiny blood vessels to tighten and a certain portion of the heart, the apex , cannot pump properly.”

Someone experiencing a broken heart can literally have chest pain, shortness of breath, even with no history of heart disease and healthy blood pressure and clean arteries.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO MITIGATE STRESS?

Fear not if you are worried that stress may be your demise. There are plenty of ways to fight the effects of stress on the body, according to Fisher.

  • Get enough sleep
  • Good time management
  • Exercise, meditation and self-nurturing
  • Learning to say “no”
  • Asking for help

Exercise can help release endorphins, a hormone that helps “get your mind in a better place” and decrease stress, she said. The American Heart Association recommends everyone get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

Learning to tell people “no” and not wanting to be a Superman or Superwoman is another one of the key ways Fisher said everyone can reduce stress.

“You have to learn how to tell people no, to delegate and ask for help if you need it,” she said.

© 1998 - 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. | All Rights Reserved.

Trending on NewsNation

Elections 2022

More Elections 2022