Chronic stress is a persistent, prolonged state of mental distress that can negatively impact an individual’s health over time. It involves more than just the day-to-day stressors we encounter; it’s a constant sense of unease that doesn’t go away, and it can take a toll on our physical and mental health.
This condition typically arises when a person has challenges they face in different areas of life, such as their finances or personal relationships, as too demanding. Remaining in a perpetual state of high alert can lead to major health problems. Explore ways that chronic stress affects the body and the importance of managing and reducing that strain.
Elevates Blood Pressure
When we experience stress, our body naturally produces a hormone called cortisol, a key player in regulating heart rate levels. Usually, stress only raises blood pressure levels temporarily, but one of the connections between blood pressure and stress is that chronic stress can cause hypertension. Hypertension makes the heart and blood vessels work harder than necessary over the long term, raising the risk of coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke.
Weakens the Immune System
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against harmful invaders like bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Chronic stress can affect the body’s immune system by weakening it and increasing susceptibility to illness and infections. Managing stress is one of the ways to slow the aging process and lower the risk of chronic diseases.
Creates Muscle Tension
Lastly, chronic stress can have a sizable impact on the musculoskeletal system, primarily through muscle tension and pain. When faced with stress, we instinctively tense our muscles, leading to headaches, muscle aches, and long-term discomfort. For older adults, it’s vital to recognize how chronic stress contributes to muscle tension and find ways to mitigate those stressors, such as by practicing relaxation techniques or engaging in physical activities that promote relaxation.
Chronic stress places a burden on physical health. From elevating blood pressure to weakening the immune system and straining muscles, its effects are far-reaching and long-term. Adopting regular self-care practices, such as mindfulness, meditation, and physical exercise, can play a central role in effectively managing and reducing chronic stress. If you believe you are experiencing chronic stress, speak with a healthcare professional to gain relief.