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Constant mental stress can wear out the immune system
By Ellaine Castillo // Jan 21, 2019

Healthy lifestyle is the key to preventing most diseases. To achieve this, people should follow a healthy diet, exercise, and maintain minimal stress levels. Unfortunately, many people just focus on the first two things and they tend to forget about the harmful effects of stress.


Stress has become such a common occurrence that most people have just accepted it into their lives and don't try to do anything about it. This is a big problem since chronic stress is one of the major contributors to the development of diseases, such as depression, cognitive impairments, and heart disease.

When people are constantly stressed, it can take a toll on their immune system. At first, stress will stimulate the immune system. This can be a good thing since it enhances your body's ability to fight off diseases and infections. However, as time passes, the stress hormones will start to wear out your immune system and reduce your response to pathogens. This can result in an increased risk of the flu, common colds, and other infections. In addition to this, having a compromised immune system can also cause you to be sick for a longer period of time.

Studies have shown that stress can also affect hormone production, which can lead to hormonal imbalances. Additionally, it can disrupt the different signaling pathways that involve these chemicals. These changes can increase a person's risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, osteoporosis, cancer, neurological disorders, and infectious diseases.

The harmful effects of stress can even be observed at the DNA level. People who are often stressed exhibit shorter telomeres, which is part of the chromosome associated with aging. Although telomeres normally shorten every time a cell divide, the body has an enzyme called telomerase that helps restore some of its length. Unfortunately, the stress hormone cortisol interferes with telomerase activity. If telomeres become extremely short, they can trigger cell inflammation and death. This is why people who have short telomeres age faster. Additionally, this feature increases their risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Tips on how to reduce stress

If you're under a lot of stress, here are some tips on how you can feel more relaxed:

  • Become more active -- People who are under a lot of stress have elevated adrenaline and cortisol levels in their body. One way to get rid of these excess stress hormones is by indulging in physical activity. So, if you're feeling stressed, try going out for a walk or performing your daily exercise routine to put your body and mind at ease. (Related: This simple exercise calms you down and eliminates stress in 3 minutes or less.)
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine -- Many people turn to coffee, alcohol, or smoking when they're stressed. Unfortunately, these will only make things worse since they contain stimulants that make the brain more active and stressed than it already is.
  • Get adequate sleep -- Stress and lack of sleep often go hand-in-hand so addressing one of them can help improve the other. Before going to bed, avoid stressful activities and go for activities that can calm you down instead, like taking a warm bath or reading.
  • Talk to someone -- Keeping all your problems to yourself can make you even more stressed. Talking to someone can help you find answers that you might not have considered before. But even if it doesn't, just knowing that you're not alone can already lift a huge weight off your chest.

Read more news articles on how stress affects the body by visiting Health.news.

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