20 Ways Stress is Ruining Your Health

  • High Blood Pressure

    If you’ve ever noticed an increase in your blood pressure reading on a particularly stressful day, you’re not alone. Stress has the ability to raise your blood pressure significantly, increasing your risk of hypertension and other serious health issues along the way. In fact, research published in WMJ suggests that even seemingly minor stressors can have a serious impact on your blood pressure and overall health. And when you want to get your pressure under control today, start with these 42 Foods That Fight High Blood Pressure!

  • Heart Arrhythmia

    That rapid heartbeat you feel when you’re in a stressful situation isn’t a figment of your imagination. Stress can cause an irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia, the result of which is that fluttering feeling in your chest. While not always dangerous on its own, arrhythmia can cause dizziness and fainting, thus increasing your risk of injury, and some research suggests that arrhythmia may contribute to your risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Depression

    If you’re feeling blue after a big day, blame your stress levels. Research published in Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience suggests that cortisol, a hormone that your body may produce in excess during times of stress, is linked to increased depression risk. In turn, depression can make stress worse, getting you into a cycle that’s hard to break. If you can’t seem to shake your depression, try talking to your doctor, and give yourself a bit of time each day during which you can decompress and try to get your stress under control. 

  • Increased Waist Circumference

    You might think that the on-edge feeling you have when you’re stressed out is helping you burn calories, but it may actually be contributing to your widening waistline. When you’re stressed out, your body ramps up its production of cortisol, a hormone that has been linked to increased blood glucose, weight gain, and fat storage, particularly around the abdomen. And when you want to flatten your belly fast, start with these 8 Best Lose-Your Gut Smoothies!

  • Heart Attack

    While most stress-induced heart arrhythmias don’t have dire consequences, experiencing arrhythmia on a regular basis may increase your risk of heart attack. An episode of arrhythmia can temporarily decrease blood flow, potentially causing tissue death in your heart that can trigger a heart attack. To reduce your risk, make sure you’re getting plenty of exercise and allow yourself sufficient time to enjoy low-stress activities.

  • Reduced Immune Function

    If you feel like you get sick every time you’re under stress, you’re not imagining things. Researchers at Ohio State University College of Medicine have found that medical students experienced weakened immune systems during their exam period, with lab tests demonstrating a decrease in their T-cells’ infection-fighting efficacy during these particularly stressful periods. And improve your health from head to toe with the 41 Weight Loss-Friendly Ways to Boost Immunity

  • Anxiety

    It probably comes as no surprise to most people that stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand; in fact, many mistake one for the other. Individual instances of stress can contribute to larger anxiety over time, which can ramp up your response to stressful situations, trapping you in a stress-and-anxiety cycle that’s hard to shake. Fortunately, research published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that meditation may be able to help relieve the anxiety and physical pain associated with stress, so make time to get zen when you're feeling your stress levels start to rise.

  • Decreased Academic Performance

    While some people feel that they perform better under stressful conditions, research suggests that stress may actually make it harder to get straight As. Researchers at Universiti Putra Malaysia have discovered a link between increased stress and decreased academic performance, so if you’re eager to ace that test, make sure you find plenty of time to study—and at least a little bit of time to relax, too. 

  • Stroke

    If you’re eager to reduce your stroke risk, there’s no time like the present to get your stress level under control. Research conducted at Emory University reveals that the T-cells responsible for fighting off infection can trigger an increase in blood pressure following a stressful stimulus, which can increase your risk of stroke over time. 

  • Gastrointestinal Issues

    Have you ever noticed that your digestion seems to get a bit wonky when you’re under a lot of stress? You’re not the only one. Not only can stress cause your body to ramp up production of stomach acid, which can cause nausea, heartburn, and potentially contribute to your risk of ulcers, it can also have detrimental effects on your gut bacteria, resulting in reduced immune function, inflammation, and issues digesting food. And when you want to get your gut in better shape, start with these 45 Foods For a Healthier Gut!

  • Insomnia

    Stress and insomnia are, unfortunately, more connected than most of us would like. Stressful events have the potential to keep you tossing and turning all night, and a lack of sleep can influence your stress level, as well. If you’re eager to cut down on stress while improving your sleep, try adding in some mindful meditation at the end of your day or add some vigorous exercise to your schedule so you’re tuckered out when bedtime rolls around. 

  • Headaches

    The sudden spike in blood pressure that often accompanies a stressful situation can cause a pounding headache in no time. To add insult to injury, the stomach stomach-acid-boosting effects of stress can often make it difficult to take traditional headache medicine, which can further inflame the stomach’s lining. To combat the effects of stress on your pain level, add some meditation to your schedule and make sure to keep hydrated throughout the day. And get your headaches under control today with these 40 Foods That Fight Migraines!

  • Alzheimer's Disease

    The threat of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is enough to make anyone stressed out. Unfortunately, that very response could be increasing your Alzheimer’s risk. Researchers at the University of Florida have discovered a link between stress and a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease, highlighting why self-care and stress relief are so important to your overall health and well-being. 

  • Decreased Cognitive Function

    If you’ve ever felt like the simplest tasks turn into nightmarish challenges when you’re stressed, you’re not imagining things. Researchers at Yale University have discovered that stress can cause an actual decrease in the brain’s size, which can contribute to a decrease in cognitive functioning over time.

  • Weight Gain

    Stress can send those junk food cravings into overdrive. Cortisol, the production of which is influenced by stress, can trigger changes in your brain’s production of dopamine and serotonin. This can lead to feelings of depression, trigger heightened emotional responses, and make it more difficult to stay away from foods that make you feel good, like salty and sugary snacks. Add in the sleeplessness stress can cause and you’ve got a recipe for overeating and a sluggish metabolism. And when you want to shed those unwanted pounds, load your menu with these 45 Foods That Conquer Cravings!

  • Faster Aging

    Not only can stress contribute to the lines on your face and the gray hairs in that mane of yours, research also suggests that stress can age you from the inside out. Research published in Nature reveals that neural stem cells exposed to stress conditions exhibited increased signs of aging, which may contribute to increased risk of age-related disease, too. 

  • Panic Attacks

    That tightness in your chest and shortness of breath you experience when you’re stressed out definitely aren’t all in your head. Stress is one of the most common triggers for panic attacks, which can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. Fortunately, a reduction in stress often means a reduction in the frequency of panic attacks, their severity, and duration. 

  • Diabetes

    As if being stressed weren’t enough of a hassle, it turns out that your stress levels may influence your chances of developing diabetes, too. Whether you’re reeling from a fight with your significant other or having a hard time at work, stress can cause your blood sugar to skyrocket, putting you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. When compounded by the weight gain that’s often associated with stress, you could be putting yourself at serious risk for lifelong, often debilitating, health consequences. And when you're ready to take control of your blood sugar, start with these 20 Foods That Fight Diabetes!

  • Increased Disability Risk

    Between the increased wear and tear on your brain, your ramped-up risk of chronic disease, and the cognitive decline that accompanies long-term stress, it’s no wonder that stress puts you at increased risk for disability. In fact, research published in the Journal of Gerontology suggests that midlife stress is correlated with an increased risk of disability later in life, so there's no better time than the present to get your stress level under control. 

  • Early Death

    If you want to live a happy, healthy life as you get older, now is the time to lower your stress level. Whether that means getting outside more, enjoying more physical activity, or trying to minimize stress in the workplace, limiting stress to the best of your ability is one of the easiest ways to ensure better health well into your golden years.