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Illnesses linked to chronic stress mismanagement

(Do you see the red?)

Stress is a factor in five out of six leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, stroke, lower respiratory disease and accidents), 75% of doctor visits and 40% of employee turnovers 

Source: CDC and Gallup


Back aches, shoulder aches and other musculo-skeletal problems: These are often the first signs of chronic stress. It is caused by prolonged tensing and contraction of the skeletal muscles in chronic stress.


Migraine headaches:

Secretion of serotonin from stomach (a reaction to vasoconstrictive effects of nor-adrenalin) causes vasodilatation of scalp arteries and migraine type headaches.


Diminished problem solving abilities, irritability, forgetfulness and frustration: 

During stress, brain function priorities change from cognitive thinking to fighting. Blood is shunted away from the thinking cortex to the somatic cortex to stimulate muscle function for instant fight or flight.  



Chronic worrying and staying in prolonged stress mode causes disturbed sleeping patterns. Lack of enough sleep by itself is a major chronic stressor.


Intermittent or chronic fatigue:

Caused by over-utilization and depletion of body's energy resources and insomnia.


Diminished relationships and social isolation:

Fatigue, aches and pains and general state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction lead to poor social and family relationships and social isolation. These in turn increase the stress load causing a vicious cycle that may lead to depression and anxiety stateseating disorders, alcoholism, drug dependence, smoking and other self-destructive activities.


Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes: 

Self-destructive activities such as poor eating, smoking, being overweight and sedentary increases cardiovascular risks.


Peptic ulcers and gastric erosion: 

Increased stomach acid production increases peptic ulcer risk regardless of presence or absence of H-Pylori bacteria.


Hypertension, thickening of the heart muscle (ventricular hypertrophy), kidney damage, strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.

Over-stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenal medulla causes chronic elevation of serum adrenaline levels leading to a myriad of heart, blood vessel and kidney diseases. Even acute mismanaged stresses can cause "broken heart syndrome" which is heart attack and heart failure caused by acute constriction of the small arteries of the heart due to adrenalin surge.


Type II diabetes, water and salt retention & hypertension:

Caused by over stimulation of the adrenal cortex (outer part of the adrenal gland that produces cortisol and aldosterone). As you see both Adrenaline and Cortisol contribute to development of hypertension.


Protein breakdown, weak tissues & osteoporosis:

This is caused by chronic elevation of serum Cortisol and suppression of growth hormone. 


Auto-immune disorders:

Type I diabetes, thyroiditis, lupus, vasculitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, skin eruptions and poor healing: 

Modulation and dysfunction of immune system in chronic stress is the cause of numerous auto-immune flare ups.


Immune system deficiencies: Frequent colds, flu, infections and cancers:

They are all caused by or aggravated by immune system deficiencies in chronic stress.  


Metabolic syndrome:  

Obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, all elements of the metabolic syndrome, have been linked to chronic stress as well as genetic predisposition. These by themselves are major cardiovascular risk factors. 



This is a condition in which the blood clots faster and easier. It could be due to genetic factors but also, during stress response the blood becomes hypercoagulable. The primary physiology is to reduce bleeding in case of injury. Chronic hypercoagulable state increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and blood clots in the legs which could travel to the lungs as well, causing pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal disorder.


Female sexual dysfunction:

Adrenal cortex (outer part) produces a non-stress related hormone, Androstenedion, a male hormone that regulates libido in females. When adrenal cortex is busy producing stress hormones it does not produce enough androstenedione which explains loss of libido in women under chronic stress.


Male sexual dysfunction:

In men, reduction of gonadotropin from pituitary gland plus lack of

androstenedione lead to impotence.


Muscle atrophy, weakness and inability to repair damaged tissues:

The front part of the pituitary gland produces two hormones that take part in stress responses and three hormones that don't. The "stress hormones" are ACTH, which stimulates the adrenal cortex, and thyrotropin which stimulates the thyroid gland.

The non-stress hormones are suppressed during production of stress hormones. These suppressed hormones are:  1- The growth hormone (GH), an anabolic hormone which regulates protein metabolism.  Lack of this hormone causes problems with protein synthesis causing muscle atrophy, weakness and inability to repair damaged tissues. 2- Gonadotropin, which regulates ovary and testicular functions. Lack of this hormone causes problems with the functions of these glands and possible infertility and reduced anabolic (repairing and re-building) functions.  3- Prolactin which regulates breast development and lactation. Lack of this hormone causes underdevelopment of breasts and lactation problems.


Miscarriage and premature births:

The back part of the pituitary gland produces vasopressin (also known as Pitocin, Pitressin, oxytocin, anti-diuretic hormone, ADH). Its production increases during stress. It causes vasoconstriction (to prevent bleeding), low urine output (to conserve water) and uterine contractions which could lead to miscarriage. Since modern stressors rarely involve injury and bleeding, these unneeded responses put undue burden on the on the blood vessels and kidneys and could even cause miscarriage and premature births. Interestingly, vasopressin has been has been found to induce happy feelings. This, along with production of endorphins in the brain is the body's way to ease the pain of the stressors so the caveman could continue to fight or run despite painful injuries.


Chronic increase in metabolic rate, rapid heart rate and high blood pressure:

Stimulation of the thyroid gland causes chronic elevations of heart rat, blood pressure and metabolic rate.


Any illness in itself is a major stressor. Unmanaged stress causes illness and illness causes more stress; a serious vicious cycle that could lead an unsuspecting victim all the way to death's door and beyond. 

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