November 7th is World Stress Awareness Day, an epidemic which affects nine out of 10 people in Italy and which the WHO defines as the disease of the century.
stress an epidemicin Italy nine out of ten people suffer from it, in the United States 40% of the population admits to feeling it more stressed than the previous year. According to the World Health Organization, this is the disease of the century and today, November 7, World Stress Awareness Day is celebrated.
The disorder can present with fatigue, depression, headaches, panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, weight changes, hair loss, tic. And it strikes with its symptoms both in private life and at work. According to a recent study by Assosalute, 85% of Italians have had stress-related disorders in the last six months. Research by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that approximately 40 million Americans, 18% of the population, have an anxiety disorder.
How stress affects our health
Stress is omnipresent and capable of influence different organs and systems, so, especially when it lasts over time, sooner or later it will give signals. At the beginning the symptomatology induced by a condition of chronic stress it could be faded, and it is not always detected. It may be prolonged tiredness, a recurring headache but not so severe as to prevent you from leading an almost normal life. In the long run, however, the stress condition will begin to make its effects felt, especially for those who are more vulnerable to it. In fact, there is one genetic predisposition to the effects of stress, so that some people are particularly sensitive to it.
One of the targets of chronic stress is
closely related to both nervous system both to endocrine system, the latter responsible for the production of hormones. On the clinical side, it has been demonstrated through laboratory studies that theexposure to stressful eventsespecially lasting more than a month, can facilitate the development of viral diseases, such as colds and flu, but also infectious diseases in general, prolonging their duration. The response to vaccines can also be altered in highly stressed people, especially if an anxious state is also present.
Stress accelerates the aging processes. For some years it has been hypothesized that stress causes damage to people telomeres, segments of DNA that protect the terminal part of the chromosomes, thus reducing the risk that they can chemically degrade. Telomeres are structures that can be thought of a bit like the plastic protectors on shoelaces. Once telomeres are damaged by stress, cell division becomes more difficult, thus reducing the body’s ability to generate new cells. Little by little, the stressed organism thus moves towards premature aging.
when stimulated by stress hormones, can also cause intestinal disorders. Stress is therefore invoked in the complex genesis of some inflammatory intestinal diseases, but above all it seems to be able to worsen their progress. Intestinal diseases in which stress most likely plays a significant role are above all the
and the Ulcerative colitis. It may be the presence of problems at work or family, or disorders such as anxiety and depression, or a chronic condition of stress, such as that to which those who already suffer from other illnesses are exposed, especially chronic and debilitating ones. The role of stress is also important in irritable bowel syndromecharacterized by an unusual visceral hypersensitivity.
Prolonged exposure to stress also has a direct effect on good brain healthan organ that is sensitive to the excessive presence of
. Several studies have shown that the stress hormones can negatively interfere with functions such asattention, memory, emotion processing. In fact, cortisol can cross the blood-brain barrier, the structure that regulates the passage of molecules from the blood to the brain. Once it arrives in the brain, cortisol finds receptors with which it interacts, in areas such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and amygdala. They are important structures not only for regulating the emotional response, but also for the correct functioning of memory and abstract thought. But these are the same areas that play a role in detecting stressful situations and regulating the body’s response, so a kind of stress reinforcement circuit, which participates in the development and maintenance of depressive states. Even in this case, however, it is not a one-size-fits-all mechanism, and as usual it largely depends on individual vulnerability.
High blood pressure due to stress
The cardiovascular system is largely involved in stress reactions and it is easy to imagine that prolonged exposure to stressful events could cause damage to this system. One of the best known effects isincrease in blood pressure
which can occur both as a result of tensions in the workplace or within the family, and due to exposure to unfavorable environments, such as those very noisy. There may also be a link between stress and so-called “essential hypertension”, a condition in which the increase in blood pressure is not due to any identifiable organic cause. However, stress is perhaps only one possible contributory cause of this disorder. The same goes for angina and myocardial infarctionpathologies on which stress can affect, without representing, except perhaps in extreme cases, the only cause.
Exposure to stressful events can worsen the condition of those who suffer from asthmaa disorder characterized by a partial airway obstructiondue to contraction of smooth muscles that envelops them, as well as the possible thickening of the walls of these streets. It appears that it is especially a subset of people who suffer from asthma who are particularly sensitive to stress exposure. In general, however, asthma sufferers tend to report anxious symptoms and negative emotions more frequently. Some studies have shown that negative life events involving oneself or one’s family can worsen asthma symptoms or even put one at greater risk of developing asthma.
A not very different situation applies to some forms of headacheas tension headache, a form of headache due, at least in part, or in some cases, to an increase in tension in the muscles positioned around the skull. possible that in certain particularly stressful moments of life, tension headache attacks become more frequentprobably through a lowering of the pain threshold. Even the actual migraine, characterized in its most typical form by throbbing pain positioned on one side of the head, nausea, intolerance to light and noise, depends in part on exposure to stressful situations, such as the loss of sleep, which can favor the onset of attacks.
There is a clear link between stress and insomnia
, as common experience also teaches. What was studied above all was thework-related insomnia: the greater the workload and the perception of being overwhelmed, the higher the risk of having fragmented sleep or in any case insufficient sleep to restore strength. However, not all stressful situations generate insomnia and not in all people. Variable factors matter a lot, such as the duration of the stressful experience, the different abilities that everyone has to deal with stress and each person’s cognitive style.
Stress can also be the cause of dermatitisa sudden inflammation of the skin that causes burning and appears due to excessive scratching abrasions and scabs on the skin. A dermatitis defined as stress when typical symptoms of dermatitis appear in the absence of other obvious causes (allergies to drugs or other substances) in a period of psychophysical and emotional overexertion.
In particularly stressful periods, hair can thin out due to an excess of cortisol which blocks its growth. Typically the problem arises six weeks to three months after the stressful event. In most cases the hair loss due to stress resolves itself and hair begins to grow normally again, usually within four months.
November 7, 2023 (changed November 7, 2023 | 3:01 pm)
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