One of the terms most difficult to define is stress, but let us simplify it by saying that you are under stress when your well-being is challenged or threatened and you are prompted to respond. Stress as a challenge can propel one to achieve greater height but when stress is prolonged and uninterrupted, it can affect the health of the person concerned.
Stress can be due to loss of loved ones, natural disasters (earthquake, floods), workload, problems in the home, problematic relationships etc, these are all stressors. A stressor is anything that puts you under pressure or threatens your well-being physically or mentally.
Stressors cause the release of hormones which prepare the body to deal with the challenge.
When stress is prolonged and persistent, it impacts negatively on health. Some of the health problems associated with stress are discussed below:
Four symptoms of stress –anxiety, depression, loneliness and hostility are closely associated with heart disease-a disease which affects the blood vessel supplying blood to the heart. Several studies have established a close relationship between depression and heart disease/ sudden death. The same applies to anxiety; the latter is linked to heart attacks. These sudden deaths from heart attacks are due to activities of nerves and hormones which directly or indirectly affect the heart.
2.High Blood Pressure
Stress accompanied by anxiety is closely linked with high blood pressure. This could be due to activities of hormones and/or nerves which affect the heart and blood vessels. The activities of these hormones and nerves can quicken the heart rate and increase the force of contraction of the heart, a usual response to fright.
3.Increased Breathlessness in Asthmatic Attacks
Stress does not bring on an asthmatic attack in an asthmatic. However stress is known to bring on increased breathlessness in an asthmatic, that means an asthmatic feels more breathless under stress than a non- asthmatic but it does not have a causal association with asthma.
One of the behavioural symptoms of a person under stress is increased alcoholic consumption. This is taken by the stressed person in order to relax but this could lead to dependence on alcohol and gradual increase in the daily volume consumed. If the stress is prolonged and persistent, alcoholism can follow with its attendant health problems.
Some people under stress take to smoking to cool their nerves. That they have a feeling of relief when they smoke could lead to dependence on cigarette/cigar. Smoking is a very difficult addiction to break and health problems of smoking are many.
Stress can cause sexual problems in both males and females. The sexual problems include loss of desire (male and female), poor erection and premature discharge (male), lack of arousal (female), failure to achieve orgasm (male and Female). If untreated, poor erection can lead to impotence.
7.Ulcer in the Stomach/Intestine
Stress can cause ulcers in the stomach and intestine (duodenal) or make them worse. This is directly due to the increased production of acids and some other chemicals by the stomach which eat the inside of the stomach and the beginning of the intestines. This problem disappears if the stress is properly managed on time.
Stressful events are associated with onset of diabetes in a lot of people. Diabetic conditions are more difficult to control when the patient is under stress than under normal conditions. In-fact, when under treatment, stressed diabetic patients respond better to treatment if the stress is being adequately managed at the same time. This pattern may not be unconnected with hormones produced by the body when stressed.