How Long Term Stress Can Affect Your Health

If you live a stressful life or have been through difficult times recently, it’s likely that you have an excessive amount of cortisol still coursing through your system. If this stress hormone is a new term for you, it’s important to know how it affects your body and mind.

Cortisol’s Role in the Adverse Effects of Stress

During the stress response the brain and other tissues are bathed in stress hormones. One of them is cortisol. Unfortunately, unlike other stress hormones that subside after things have quieted down, cortisol remains in the body for hours. And in situations of chronic stress, cortisol levels remain high for even longer, often dangerously so. And the older we get, the longer cortisol remains elevated.

One of the negative impacts of chronic stress on health and well-being is mental dysfunction. Animal studies have demonstrated that prolonged stress and high levels of cortisol accelerate brain aging and damage the brain, particularly the hippocampus, which affects learning and memory. It appears to do the same in humans.

A study conducted at McGill University in Montreal periodically measured the blood levels of stress hormones in 130 healthy people between the ages of 55 and 87 over five years. High levels of these hormones were associated with memory and attention difficulties.

Based on these findings, it appears that one of the best ways to avoid the negative effects of stress on the body is to use therapies that lower cortisol as well.

– via Dr. Julian Whitaker

The effects of stress and cortisol unfortunately are farther reaching than just memory or cognitive function. Those of us who have dealt with anxiety understand that it has very physical ramifications, as well. These are just a few of the ways that we can see a stressful life displayed in our bodies.

How You Can See Stress In Your Body

Mind and body are inextricably linked and the interaction between them can produce physical changes. Our brain notices a stressor, a physical reaction is triggered, and the reaction can lead to further emotional reactions and mental and physical damage. Some problems such as headaches and muscle tension are often directly caused by the bodily responses that accompany stress. Many other disorders, some say most, are aggravated by stress.

Susceptibility to Infection

There is no doubt that under stress the immune system is suppressed, making you more vulnerable to infections. Allergies and autoimmune diseases (including arthritis and multiple sclerosis) may be exacerbated by stress. This effect can be partly offset by social support from friends and family. Being stressed also slows the rate at which you recover from any illnesses you already have.

Skin Problems

Stress is known to aggravate skin problems such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. It also has been linked to unexplained itchy skin rashes. These skin problems are themselves intensely stressful.


There is some evidence that chronic stress may lead to insulin-dependent diabetes in people who are predisposed to the disease. It could be that stress causes the immune system to destroy insulin-producing cells.


Stress does not normally cause infertility, but the two have been linked many times. People who are trying for a baby are more likely to conceive when on holiday or when facing little stress, and fertility treatment is more successful at these times too.

– via Psych

Have you noticed specific effects of stress in your own life? How do you try to control anxiety to give yourself a better, healthier life?



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