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  • Writer's pictureGiovanni Gentile

Why do we feel stressed? And why should we keep an eye on stress?

Stress is a natural adaptive response to a situation that the person perceives as difficult or threatening to their well-being

It has a psychological dimension (how people perceive the stressful situation) and a physiological dimension (increased blood pressure and heart rate, sweating, increased respiratory rate).

The experience of adapting to stress has three stages:

  1. Alert

  2. Adaptation

  3. Exhaustion

What are the effects of long-term stress?

In the short term, stress can be beneficial, but when it is activated too often or for too long, the primitive "fight or flight" stress response affects not only the brain but also damages many other organs and cells throughout the body.

The activation of the sympathetic nervous system

The amygdala and a whole complex system involving hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands cause a response in different districts of the body innervated by the Sympathetic Nervous System, causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, sweating hands and feet, dry mouth, contraction of the involuntary muscles of the gastrointestinal system ... and many other reactions that make us ready to face the dangers.

Hormonal effects

The adrenal gland releases the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, and norepinephrine.

Because these hormones travel through the bloodstream, they easily reach blood vessels and the heart. Adrenaline makes the heart beat faster and raises blood pressure, causing high blood pressure. Cortisol causes the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels, to break down, increasing the chances of heart attack or stroke.

Gastrointestinal System

Cortisol can increase appetite. It communicates to the body to restore energy stores by eating caloric foods and carbohydrates, and seeking comfort in food. High cortisol levels can also cause these extra calories to turn into visceral fat. This type of fat doesn't just make it harder to fasten your pants. It is an organ that releases hormones and immune system chemicals called cytokines that can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease or insulin resistance.

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