Stress. It exists all around us. It’s a rare and talented person that can figure out how to avoid it. But to live in optimal health in today’s world, the majority of us must learn to manage stress properly. It is not just something you can cast aside and ignore, stress is a silent killer. It will creep up on you slowly, maybe even unknowingly, and destroy what’s good in your life. And it’s not always the big things that can affect you such as work, finances, and relationships. Stress affects the body both internally and externally, as well as mentally and physically. Stress attacks every cell in the body. Learn the signs and save your life.
Why Stress is a Silent Killer
Not only is stress a silent killer, but it is also a strategic killer. It can debilitate and hurt you in many ways. It Increases the level of cortisol, the main stress hormone, interfering with memory, learning, lower immune function, decreased bone density, and increasing blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.
The bottom line is chronic stress is hazardous to your health. Beware! It can lead to premature death from many related health problems.
Who Does Stress Attack?
Stress is a silent killer for everyone. It does not discriminate. But the people who are able to manage their stress are 3 times less likely to die from stress-induced ailments than those who perceived their daily life to be overwhelming and stressful. What does this tell us? It’s not the actual stress that kills us, it’s our perception of it and our best bet to a healthy lifestyle is to incorporate stress-reducing habits into our daily regiments.
One person might find sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic horrific. They become frantic and worried that they will not arrive to their destination on time. Anxiety can set in quickly, and the body reacts to the stress by releasing an overwhelming and unnecessary amount of harmful cortisol. Another person can be in that same line of traffic and view things differently. They may enjoy this time and listen to music, meditate or appreciate the break they’ve been unexpectedly given. Getting aggravated in traffic once or twice won’t cause much damage, but over time, the effects of stress become toxic.
A Study of 6300 Stressed-Out People
In an ongoing study conducted on 6300 people, scientists discovered some interesting facts relating to stress. Since the early 80’s, researchers followed the lives of these men and women to accurately assess the stress in their lives and produce data on what they believe to be the reasons why stress is a silent killer. They gathered research by creating special surveys with a series of questions that covered a variety of topics including views on the current economic status around the world.
They discovered the following information:
- Although educated Caucasian men who worked full time had the highest level of stress in their lives, the study concluded that low socioeconomic status women were found to have the highest levels of stress that impacted their health.
- The older a person gets, the less stress they experience. From the age of 20 to 40, stress levels drop significantly.
- The greatest stressors found in the 30-year study was how individuals viewed the US economic situation
Sadly, the most stressed-out people are the ones who have the highest risk of premature death.
Signs Your Body May Be Under Too Much Stress
If you listen closely, there are many signs that your body will give you that it is under too much stress. Research has confirmed that there are many symptoms to watch for indicating an overstressed body including:
- Acne. Studies have shown that higher stress levels are associated with acne, and there are a few reasons why. When people are stressed out, they tend to touch their face more spreading the bacteria that contributes to the skin breaking out. Stress also causes hormonal shifts and excess oil production that can block pores and cause acne.
- Headaches. There have been many studies conducted on stress as a common headache trigger, and they have been found to be correlated on many levels. In fact, stress is labeled the second most prominent headache trigger. One study of 267 individuals who suffered from chronic headaches revealed that stressful events preceded the development of headaches in over 45% of the cases. Another study showed that an increase in the intensity of stress leads to an increased number of headaches experienced per month. Additionally, research collected from 150 military service members found that 67% of the reported headaches were triggered by stress.
- Chronic Pain. Stress and increased levels of stress hormone, cortisol, have been linked to chronic pain. Studies have found higher levels of cortisol in peoples hair which is a good indicator of prolonged stress on the body.
- Frequent Illnesses. Stress takes a toll on the immune system leaving the body susceptible to infections, colds, and illnesses. In a study on how stress affects the immune system, researchers examined 235 adults and placed them in high and low-stress groups. Over a six month period, the people in the high-stress group experienced 70% more respiratory infections, and 61% more sick days than the group labeled low-stress.
- Fatigue. Prolonged stress has been linked to chronic fatigue and decreased energy levels. In a study of approximately 2,500 people, it was found that fatigue was strongly associated with an increase in stress levels. If the body feels fatigued and unable to regain energy through normal avenues, it is important to speak to someone about the possibility of adrenal failure and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Stress is a silent killer, and with fatigue, symptoms often go unnoticed and the body begins to shut down before anyone can make an accurate diagnosis.
- Insomnia. Stress has also been shown to disrupt sleep. One small study linked high levels of work-related stress with restlessness and the inability to sleep. An additional study of 2,300 participants showed a direct correlation between stressful events and an increased risk of insomnia.
- Changes in Libido. Many people have experienced a decrease in their sex drive, arousal, and satisfaction when faced with stressful periods.
- Digestive Issues. High levels of stress have a great impact on the gut flora and GI tract, with diarrhea and constipation being one of the greatest signs along with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- A Change in Appetite. A change in appetite is extremely common during times of stress. In a study conducted on college students, 81% reported experiencing an appetite change when stressed out. 62% of these young adults had an increase in appetite, while 38% experienced a decrease.
- Depression. In a study of 816 women clinically diagnosed with major depression, it was found that the onset of the mental illness was associated with acute and chronic stress. In a not-so-dramatic study of 38 individuals who were not chronically depressed, it was found that high levels of stress were associated with depressive episodes.
- Rapid Heartbeat. Heart rate is significantly higher during stressful conditions and also increases blood pressure. Chronic stress is a silent killer when it comes to cardiovascular health and could cause irreversible damage.
- Sweating. Exposure to stress and its related anxiety has been proven to cause excessive sweating especially in teens and those with palmar hyperhidrosis, but also the general public.
Stress is something almost everyone will encounter at one point in their lives. Even in small unnoticeable formats stress is a silent killer and can be detrimental to one’s health. Thankfully, there are many signs and symptoms to help recognize stressful conditions, as well as ways to decrease the impact of stress on one’s life.
Methods To Deal With Stress
Yes, stress is a silent killer but there are methods to control the stress we are faced with. For some, it’s as easy as exercising 30 minutes a day. Experts are saying this could be the magic pill to creating an environment within your body to properly manage stress. For other chronic worriers, it may be a bit more difficult. They need to find their own personal combination of what form of stress relief works best for them.
Some of the most highly recommended ways to combat stress are:
- Meditation. By adding meditation into your daily routine, you can take a wildly spinning mind, and train it to take on a more calming and relaxing perspective. For many people, this method can make a big difference. With today’s technology, it’s as simple as downloading a phone app and allocating time slots that fit nicely into your calendar for some reciting of mantras or conscious thinking.
- Adrenal Breathing. This is a quick and easy fix when stress strikes and the body begins to feel anxious. Deep breathing may also be helpful but those who are weak needs to be very careful as excessive deep breathing can trigger adrenal crashes. Proper Adrenal Breathing is a great way to take a step back physically and psychologically and refocus on the current surroundings. Often when people experience stress, their breathing gets rapid and shallow, creating even more anxiety. It helps to take deep breaths from the abdomen to slow the stress response and regulate the heartbeat.
- Avoid Alcohol. Many people turn to alcohol to eliminate stress when in fact alcohol could have a reverse effect. It disturbs sleep and acts as a depressant.
Stress is a Silent Killer
When the body’s natural response to stress becomes impaired, a person can suffer from a stressed-induced ailment called Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This condition can occur when a person’s body is so overstressed the adrenals no longer secrete cortisol, leading to serious health issues that affect a person’s well being such as extreme fatigue, fluctuating blood sugar levels, a weakened immune system, anxiety and depression among many other things.
Too often, stress goes unrecognized, or is treated incorrectly, even by conventional physicians. A more comprehensive treatment regime can be obtained from health care practitioners that specialize in adrenal fatigue and adhere to the NeuroEndoMetabolic model of stress (NEM) recognizes all the systems of the body interacting as one to handle stress. Symptoms are followed to discover which underlying system is injured, how it is affecting others, and proper treatment is then implemented.
Stress signs and symptoms are serious and should never be ignored. Insufficient professional care could result in unnecessary suffering and even death. If you think you may be suffering from stress and adrenal fatigue, it is important to begin a proper treatment to manage your health care and proactively reduce the stress in your life.
© Copyright 2012 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Why is stress a silent killer?
Yes, stress is a silent killer because it can cause harm to the body both physically and mentally before a person even realizes it. Getting a proper diagnosis of stress-induced ailments such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome are difficult with conventional medicine.