5 Reasons Why Stress is A Silent Killer According to Research
Stress has been called a silent killer for good reason. Stress is a faceless, deadly nemesis that crouches in the shadows ready to spring at the first sign of weakness. Stress is a predator that stalks vulnerable victims, and chronic stress can kill for many reasons. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of stress is that this predator preys on your lifespan.
Stress has many weapons it uses to destroy our bodies, and this destructive power affects every organ and anatomical system. Here is a list of health disorders related to stress:
• Cardiovascular disease
• Memory loss
• Frequent colds
• Poor concentration
• Menstrual irregularity
• Digestive problems and dysbiosis
• Sexual dysfunction
• Appetite changes
1. Stress Increases Fatality Risk in Cancer Patients
In both of these scientific studies, stress proved to be more fatal to cancer patients than the cancer itself. Stress comes wrapped in many shapes and forms including the psychological package.
The New England Journal of Medicine released a study in April of 2012 called “Suicide and Cardiovascular Death After a Cancer Diagnosis”. The study’s results were a saddening testimony to the fact that psychological stress can be deadly. Out of the 500,000+ cancer diagnoses, they discovered that the risk of heart-related death was found to be 26.9 times higher and the risk of suicide was 16 times greater during the week following a cancer diagnosis compared to individuals who were cancer-free. It is interesting to note that this risk was significantly increased amongst patients with a poor diagnosis.To read more about this study, check out my article here.
The Cancer Genetics and Cytogenetics journal published an article this month entitled: “Adrenaline Induces Chemoresistance in HT-29 Colon Adenocarcinoma Cells”. Researchers discovered that the stress hormone adrenaline caused multi-drug resistance in colon cancer cells.
2. Stress Causes Sympathetic Overdrive
When our sympathetic nervous system is activated our body experiences a rush of survival mechanisms. A sequence of nerve cell firing occurs as chemicals including adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are released into the bloodstream. Our respiration rate increases along with our heart rate as blood is channeled away from our digestive tract into our muscles and limbs. Our pupils dilate as our awareness is honed to a razor edge. We are now prepared to fight or flee the danger in what is known as the fight or flight response.
Unfortunately, a state of chronic stress (constant fight-or-flight) induces sympathetic overdrive which compromises our ability to detox, heal, digest, fight illness, and rest. Sympathetic overdrive is the inability to shift out of sympathetic nervous system and into the parasympathetic nervous system mode (the relaxed state).
Sympathetic overdrive is a loaded gun. If we keep pulling the trigger we will inflict damage to ourselves by succumbing to the cumulative buildup of adrenaline and cortisol. If these stress hormones are not metabolized over time it can lead to disorders of our autonomic nervous system such as autoimmune disease for example. To read more about sympathetic overdrive, visit my article here.
3. Stress Leads to Neurodegenerative Disease
Psychology Today is calling the stress hormone cortisol “Public Enemy Number One”. Research shows that elevated levels of cortisol in the body over prolonged periods of time can do extensive damage to the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of our brain responsible for learning and some memory. In an experiment conducted on rats, daily injections of corticosterone (rat cortisol) for several weeks killed the rats’ brain cells. Subjecting the rats to daily stress for the same period of time produced the same results. Too much cortisol can lead to premature brain aging and potentially increase your risk for neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Stress Creates Inflammation
A scientific study conducted on military veterans found that a lifetime of chronic stress leads to elevated levels of inflammation. Inflammatory cytokines are chemicals released by the immune system in attack mode, and thus elevations of inflammatory cytokine levels are commonly used as an indicator for diagnosing autoimmune diseases.
5. Stress Shortens Your Lifespan
Stress frays and ultimately unravels the very threads that comprise the fabric of your being. In a genetic sense, these threads are your telomeres. What are telomeres you ask? They are the protective genetic structures that regulate the aging process of our cells. Stress accelerates the aging process by shortening these telomeres. All stress hormones are acidic in nature and place our aging process in fast-forward mode. According to Dr. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine:
“Our bodies know how to fix broken proteins, kill cancer cells, retard aging, and fight infection. They even know how to fix ulcers, make skin lesions disappear, and knit together broken bones! But here’s the kicker…those natural self-repair mechanisms don’t work if you’re stressed!”
Modulate the Stress Response
Our body’s reaction to stress is hard-wired by our stress response. As adults, our stress response has already been tuned to be sensitive to certain triggers. However, we can control how we modulate that stress response. Some successful methods of stress response modulation include:
• Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
• Nutritional supplements like magnesium, potassium, B complex vitamins, and amino acids
• Listening to calming music
• Unplugging from the work environment daily
• Avoiding overstimulation
• Getting some comic relief
• Applying essential oils
A big part of determining the best way to modulate your personal stress response is to recognize the greatest stress triggers that have been programmed into your subconscious. Take a moment to sum up your life as a whole and reflect upon what tends to stress you the most whether it is a type of person, an experience, or an atmosphere. Now take whatever measures necessary to alleviate or eliminate those sources of stress for the sake of your personal health and well-being. Your body will thank you.
Good vs. Bad Stress
Shockingly, not all stress is deadly. Eustress is the type of stress that stimulates personal growth and development. Eustress triggers neurogenesis in our brains, like when we learn a new language, for instance. I like to define eustress as a challenge without damage. In fitness routines, we challenge our muscles to improve our physiques, but if we know what we are doing we don’t go so far as to damage our muscles in the process. Eustress results in positive change unlike the negative version of stress which is distress. Of course, that word conjures obvious mental illustrations that don’t need any further definition.
After taking the time to consider all the horrifying consequences of stress, it makes you examine your priorities in a whole new light. Amidst hectic schedules and packed calendars, you start to question whether the fast and furious pace is really worth it. Quality of life is one of the most important gifts we receive. If the value of that life is going to depreciate because of stress then maybe the goals just aren’t worth all the blood, sweat, and tears anymore. Let’s make it a priority in 2018 to stop and smell the roses!
Check out this other great article by EMaxHealth: 3 Testimonies of Those Who Found Healing from P.A.N.D.A.S Syndrome