Stress Awareness Month: Why You Should Relax

Don't get stressed - get restApril is Stress Awareness Month.  But why dedicate an entire month to stress?  Isn’t stress a sign of productivity and work ethic?  You could look at it like that, but chronic stress is going to have some serious long-term health consequences.  If you take a little more time to relax you will:

Protect Your Heart

Stress can wreak major havoc on the human heart.  According to Kathi Heffer, PHD, assistant professor of psychiatry at University of Rochester Medical Center, “There are studies to show that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we traditionally think of as major, like hypertension, poor diet, and lack of exercise.”  Relax a bit more.  Your heart will thank you.

Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

It’s become conventional thinking to link stress and stroke and recently a large body of research has surfaced suggesting that stress could indeed be a cause of stroke.  For example, a University of Michigan study found “that men who were more physiologically reactive to stress (as measured by high blood pressure) were 72% more likely to suffer a stroke.”

Better Memory

According to the Franklin Institute, a constant release of stress hormones in the brain can negatively affect brain functions such as memory.  For example, too much cortisol (the hormone produced by the body to manage stress) can prevent the brain from creating new memories or accessing pre-existing memories.

Make Better Decisions

As we discussed last month, stress creates bad decision makers.  When under stress, a person tends to become over-confident, taking too much direction from positive feedback and very little from negative feedback, creating an unbalanced decision.

Reduce Your Risk of Rapid Weight Gain

Some effects that stress has on weight gain, such as cravings for fatty, salty or sugary foods, have yet to be proven, though there is some strong evidence in their favor.  However, cortisol can slow down your metabolism, causing rapid weight gain even if a person does not alter their diet.  Likewise, stress can alter blood sugar levels and even affect your body’s fat storage mechanism.

It’s important to understand and fully realize the harsh toll that stress can take on a human body.  Manage your stress (in a HEALTHY WAY).  It could mean the difference between life and death.

Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici

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