Excessive stress in adolescence affects health in adulthood

Excessive stress in adolescence affects health in adulthood

Recently, the “Journal of the American Heart Association” published the results of a study that prospectively explored the impact of long-term stress in adolescents on cardiovascular health in adulthood. The conclusion shows that “people who experience greater stress in adolescence are more likely to develop hypertension, obesity and other cardiometabolic risks in adulthood.”

Today, cardiometabolic diseases are affecting younger and younger people. Why are stress levels in adolescence linked to high blood pressure, obesity and heart health risks in adulthood? How to properly help teenagers reduce stress? A reporter from Science and Technology Daily interviewed Yang Jinggang, deputy chief physician of the Cardiovascular Metabolism Ward, Department of Cardiology, Fuwai Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

Teenagers more sensitive to stress

Generally speaking, how a person copes with stress should be analyzed from three aspects: the stress itself, the understanding of the stress source, and the coping method adopted. There are many theoretical studies related to stress, but there are few studies on the stress-related theories of adolescents and the impact of changes in stress levels during adolescence on heart health in adulthood.

“This study used the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). This scale is actually a questionnaire and a widely used survey method. It mainly focuses on assessing people’s subjective feelings, that is, the perception of stress. But we can’t tell what exactly caused the pressure,” Yang Jinggang said.

Teenagers perceive stress differently than adults, often describing perceived stress as something that makes them “feel bad.” Stress can be caused by small things in daily life, and parents tend to underestimate the impact these things have on their children. Stressors unique to adolescents include school activities and academic performance. In addition, parental divorce, domestic violence, lack of family function, improper parental education methods, many negative emotions and abnormal behaviors of parents themselves, etc., will also make teenagers feel more stressed.

Moderate stress has certain positive effects on people, but excessive stress can have a serious impact on people’s health. Yang Jingang said that teenagers are in an important turning period in their lives, and their psychological development is immature. This is also the period when their psychological endurance is the most fragile and their hearts are the most sensitive.

In addition, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible for controlling the human body center, and decision-making, judgment, execution, etc. are all regulated by the prefrontal cortex. Compared with other brain regions, the prefrontal cortex develops slowly and generally does not fully mature until after puberty. Therefore, this can also explain why people have difficulty controlling their emotions and reactions to external stimuli during adolescence, showing that they cannot cope with stress well. And the pressure on teenagers often comes from many aspects. If parents fail to detect and provide support in time, it will also cause teenagers to be more sensitive to stress.

 Correctly guide teenagers to reduce stress

“Excessive stress will destroy the body’s physiological and psychological balance model, thereby affecting health.” Yang Jingang said that adolescence is a critical period for the development of hormone signaling pathways. Changes in stress hormone signaling, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and cortisol may all have long-lasting and ongoing effects on a person’s cardiometabolic health.

He further explained that when a person experiences a stressful event, the amygdala, the area of ​​the brain responsible for emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This area of ​​the brain acts like a command center, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system. The nervous system directs the rest of the body and controls breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat, and more. If you are stressed, your heart may beat faster, causing your blood pressure to rise, as well as your blood sugar and blood lipids, leading to health problems such as high blood pressure and obesity.

Yang Jinggang introduced that people who are under long-term stress may be accustomed to a high-calorie, high-fat diet. This also increases the risk of cardiometabolic disease. In addition, chronic stress may cause the release of various stress hormones in the body, such as catecholamines and corticosteroids, and activate the immune system in a way that creates chronic inflammation. These inflammations may lead to increased cardiovascular activity and endothelial damage and further induce atherosclerosis.

Yang Jinggang suggested that children and teenagers should be correctly guided to reduce their own stress. For example, schools can strengthen mental health education in the curriculum to guide students on how to recognize, understand and deal with various stresses. Mental health teachers should communicate more with students and teach students a variety of stress coping strategies, including how to manage emotions, time management, and how to form a positive way of thinking to help students better cope with academic pressure, social pressure, etc.

“Schools can also organize more sports, art and other activities to allow students to develop a variety of interests and hobbies to help students reduce stress. In addition, good family relationships and a positive family environment can also help cultivate children’s emotional resilience and adaptability. , so that they can better cope with the pressures and challenges in life.” Yang Jinggang said.

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