Effect of Stress on the Human Body
Stress may be described as an emotional and sometimes physical response that a person displays as a result of negative pressure from people, environment or illness. On the other hand, the disease is a disruption of the physical structure of the human body as a result of nutritional, biological or physical defects to the human body. Illnesses occur as a result of unfavorable environmental factors. According to Glass (12), there is a possibility that stress causes disease. Also, Schneiderman et al. (5) postulate that “both epidemiological and controlled studies have demonstrated relationships between psychosocial stressors and disease.” Glass (15) noted that being stressful may hinder the body’s ability to defend itself against pathogens, even those that can be easily eliminated by the immune system. As a result, the body responds by being stressed due to the negativity from the people around as well as the environment. Ultimately, stress affects memory, makes the body susceptible to disease by weakening its immune system, and also, affects learning and cognition.
As noted above, stress is the automatic body response to any most environmental factors that impact the body both negatively and positively. When one is excited to say some good news, or meeting a long lost friend, the body will help the person react and act faster than normal. Unfortunately, positive reactions that are caused by stress are limited, and rarely cause any harm to the human body. What is most disturbing is the negative stress triggers. Stress hormones are responsible for the fight and flight body responses. When such occurs, every part of the body including the muscles, the respiration, and the heart rate increase in readiness for the situation facing the body. Shahsavarani et al. (237) assert that “Chronic stress keeps body muscles contracted for a long time in the defensive and spasmodic state. When muscles are contracted for a long time, this can result in other physical reaction and even stress-related diseases.” Flight and fight body response is designed to offer protection to the body in times of emergency and danger. They enable one to react to situations in a way that could save the person’s life if confronted by danger.
The human body is not equipped to handle stressful situations all the time. Extended episodes of fight and flight reactions are detrimental to the human body. Stressful situations should be limited to bad situations such as war, loss of loved ones, disease and illnesses or bad news which occurs from time to time. Everyone experiences stress, and according to Mariotti (1), stress that occurs occasionally is beneficial to health. However, constant stress and bodily reactions to the same is not good for the human body. Chronic stress affects virtually every system in the body and leads to depression, insomnia, irritability, headaches, and anxiety.
Memory is among the most vital feature of the CNS comprising of active, explicit and sensory. Active or short term is subject to the task of the frontal and parietal lobes while explicit or short-term is subject to the role of the extended parts of the brain. Nevertheless, the overall purpose of memory and shift of short to long term are subject to the hippocampus; part of the brain that possesses a high content of receptors known as glucocorticosteroid known to depict the most intensity of the reaction to stress. Thus, in recent decades there has been heated argument on the connection between stress and hippocampus.
The outcome of previous research has explained the impact of stress on memory. According to Yaribeygi et al. (1058), a variety of investigations has demonstrated that depression can lead to functional and structural adjustments in the hippocampus part of the nervous system. The structural modification can be in the form of shriveling and neurogenesis conditions. Moreover, chronic anxiety contributes to the rise of plasma cortisol resulting from decreasing in the level of dendritic divisions. Furthermore, it leads to a reduction in neurons figure and the changes are also visible in synaptic terminals that minimize neurogenesis in the hippocampus tissue (McEwen 5). The adjustments are enabled by interfering with the neurons cellular metabolism induced by the glucocorticosteroid. Moreover, they can boost the sensitivity of hippocampus cells towards stimulatory amino acids while accelerating the level of extracellular glutamate.
In the end, it has been agreed that the impact of stress on memory is subject to time of contact to the traumatic stimulus and, in regards to the timing of the obligatory pressure memory can either improve or deteriorate. Also, the latest research has explained that applying a particular timed timetable of exposure to trauma had an impact on hippocampus and striatum dependent memories that points the importance of timing of coerced stressful stimulus.
Cognition is also a vital component of the brain system. It refers to reception and perception of expected stimuli and its meaning inclusive of activities such as knowledge, making decisions, courtesy, and verdicts. Stress has extended impacts on cognition but subjects to its concentration, period, source and scale. Just as the case with memory, cognition is primarily processed in the hippocampus, temporal lobe, and amygdala (Yaribeygi et al. 1060). The aggregate impact of trauma on cognition is minimizing it, and hence it is declared that any character steps drafted to cut stress results in rising cognition. The reality is that stress ignites some of the physiological systems inclusive of autonomic nervous, neuropeptide, central neurotransmitter and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. These systems have an open impact on neural circuits in the nervous system whose role is the processing of information. Stimulation of stress leads in production and distribution of glucocorticosteroid due to its lipophilic features with the ability to diffuse by the blood-brain obstacle and holds extended term impact on cognition and processing.
The central nervous system is the most prone to excess stress as it is responsible for the fight and flight reaction of the body towards stressful situations. The hypothalamus is responsible for responding to stress in the brain. Shahsavarani et al. (237) note that “Adrenal glands are directly responsible of the production of stress hormones which would be secreted in the time of stress response. The most important stress hormone is cortisol which is produced and secreted by adrenal glands.” When confronted by a stressful situation, it passes messages to adrenal glands that in turn releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. The hormones communicate urgency to the heart and have blood rushing through the body part that needs it urgently such as the muscles, legs or other important body organs. The reaction should not last long and as soon as the person relaxes, and the fear is gone, the hypothalamus should communicate the reactors to return to normal. If the perceived fear is not gone, and the stress still exists, the reaction is mostly going to continue. According to Stults-Kolehmainen, Matthew and Rajita (81), the human body is not able to handle such reactions such as elevated heart rates, and unrelaxed muscles. Eventually, the CNS is not able to control fight and flight.
Stress may lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke. According to Yaribeygi et al. (1063)
If these effects occur upon activation of the sympathetic nervous system, then it mainly results in an increase in heart rate, strength of contraction, vasodilation in the arteries of skeletal muscles, a narrowing of the veins, contraction of the arteries in the spleen and kidneys, and decreased sodium excretion by the kidneys.
As observed, one of the reactions to stress is an elevated heart rate to pump more blood and supply oxygen to the parts of the body that require urgent help to cope with the threat being concentrated towards the human body. The reaction also involves the body constricting blood vessels in a manner that allows its pressure to increase for it to reach its target parts faster. Thus, stress leads to high blood pressure, and if stress is consistent, it is likely that the person will suffer from hypertension, which could lead to stroke or heart attack. Persons with asthmatic breathing problems may experience problems breathing when under stress.
Stress also affects the digestive system of the human body. When a person is under intense pressure and stress, the body responds by producing excess glucose through the liver to provide the energy required to handle the stressful situation. Continued stress means that the body will keep producing glucose up to the levels that it is no longer able to control. When that happens, there is excess sugar in the blood which leads to the development of diabetes type 2 (Slavich 347). In essence, stress that takes long to overcome is leeway to developing type 2 diabetes.
Also, affects reproduction. When a person is under stress, they have always preoccupied both body and mind. Long stress durations affect the reproduction of the male reproductive hormone testosterone, which interferes with erectile function and sperm production. Shahsavarani et al. (237) note that
High levels of blood cortisol which is found on chronic stress states can disrupt sperm generation in male genitals. Chronic stress can influence the production of testosterone, sperm production, and maturation, and even cause erectile problems and impotence, and hence reduce the potential and capability of the fertility of male population.
A person who has stressed all the time may have erectile dysfunction and may be unable to bear children in the long last. Further, stress levels affect intimacy and personal relationships, which is also a deterrent to reproduction. Women may experience irregular, and painful periods when under stress and sometimes, develop signs of menopause.
In the end, it is clear that stress leads to problems with bodily problems. Most body systems perform optimally when they are not under duress or stress. The body reacts to stress by producing stress hormones such as adrenaline which trigger responses that help the body cope with the situations. However, these responses are meant to be short-term. The body is not equipped to handle long stressful episodes, and when that happens, the body starts to decline health wise.
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