Stress and Pain Management Educatio
How Does Stress Affect the Body?

Stress triggers the fight or flight response within the body. Stress related hormones are released into the blood: heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, breathing becomes quicker and shallower, perspiration increases, muscles tense, stomach acid level goes up, blood sugar increases, cholesterol levels rise and more.

Originally the stress response helped us survive by increasing the ability to fight or the ability to flee from an enemy. As men and women have become more "civilized" we have learned to control these powerful responses (see Signs of Stress, next page). Over time, chronic stress can lead to disease, a worsening of health problems and even death.

Does stress cause wear and tear on the body?
Yes! Dr. Hans Selye describes this in his three stages of the stress response, the general adaptation syndrome.

1. Alarm stage: Prepares the body for the fight or flight response.
2. Resistant stage: The body tries to adjust to chronic stress.
3. Exhaustion stage: The body wears down and becomes prone to disease.
50%-80% of all diseases are stress related. Illness gives you stress!

What are the stress hormones?

Catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline) cause the body to ready for action. The heart rate increases, blood vessels constrict, blood clots easier, muscles tense, breathing rate increases, pupils dilate, the nerves are stimulated, and perspiration increases. Long-term overproduction of these chemicals can lead to ulcers, headaches, increased pain, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, sleeplessness and high blood pressure.

Cortisone causes the blood pressure to increase, blood cholesterol to rise, slowing of Vitamin D, weakening of the immune system, increased glucose production, and slowed digestion. Long-term overproduction of this chemical can lead to hardening of the arteries, osteoporosis, sugar diabetes, ulcers, rashes, migraine or tension headaches and other diseases.

Next: Signs of Stress

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Copyright 2008 Manage Stress Now Updated: 09/20/10