Many people may think that stress is just a harmless part of life that we all have to endure. Stress is all in the mind, right? Stress, however, can cause a myriad of mental and physical issues. These issues can range from minor nuisances to death in extreme cases.
The term stress was first used by a medical researcher named Hans Seyle in 1936 to describe the body’s biological response mechanisms. Seyle defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Hans Seyle demonstrated the effects of stress through numerous experiments in lab animals. His stress test experiments revealed that all of the lab animals exhibited the same physical maladies. Examinations of the lab animals showed that they had developed stomach ulcers, shrinkage of lymphoid tissue and enlarged adrenal glands. Further in his research, he discovered that long term stress caused these same animals to develop various diseases, strokes, arthritis, kidney disease and heart attacks. Seyle proposed that these same issues could develop in humans exposed to stress.
According to the American Heart Association in 2010 there were over 200,000 deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease, and recent research has focused on identifying preventing this growing problem. Job stress appears to be a major contributor to this issue. Time and budget constraints, workplace hostility, anger and unhealthy preoccupation with work are all contributors to an unhealthy measure of stress. The Occupational Safety and Health Organization has even declared stress to be a workplace hazard resulting in over $300 billion in costs annually to American industry. As we age, the effects of stress on the body multiply exponentially.
In a study published by the UK Telegraph, researchers found that people age 65 and older were five times more likely to die from heart failure, heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease. Higher levels of stress hormones contributed to these risks. Higher cholesterol and high blood pressure are also conditions that can be attributed to elevated stress levels. In Britain, one in three of all deaths is caused by cardiovascular disease. This statistic equates to over 200,000 deaths a year. While short term stress can be a good thing for a person, long term stress leads to damage if left unmanaged.
Short term stress can be beneficial in keeping the mind alert and ready to react to different situations. Stress becomes a negative influence when left unmanaged for long periods of time with no relaxation or relief. As a result of this long term stress factor, an individual will become overworked and stress related issues begin to develop and emerge. Often people will turn alcohol, tobacco or certain drugs to help alleviate their stress. In reality, this self medication only results in masking much of the stress and keeping the body in a stressed state.
In today’s world, stress is nearly unavoidable. While every individual faces different types and levels of stress, we all have stressors in our daily lives we have to face. There are many ways to deal with and limit our daily stress. Methods for a less stressful existence can range from simply changing one’s mindset to doctor supervised medication. It is up to all of us to reduce our stress or eventually face the physical and mental consequences of an overly stressed existence.
2014 Statistical Update , American Heart Association
What is stress?, The American institute of Stress, http://www.stress.org/what-is-stress/
Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor