The moment you wake up from your bed in the morning, your brain kickstarts. Your brain works all day long to prepare your body for coping with daily life activities like making breakfast for kids, going to the office, and all other activities. Hypothalamus is the primary organ controlling almost all bodily functions and is the control tower of your body. Imagine you’re late for your office and all you can do is look at the watch with the minutes ticking away. Your hypothalamus at this moment releases stress hormones to increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle activity. This is stress, a normal reaction of the body toward physical, emotional, and intellectual changes in the surrounding.
Although stress is helpful, prolonged stress can be detrimental to your health.
Effects of Stress on the Brain
As stated earlier, stress for a very long time can affect your body poorly, and the nervous system suffers the most. Chronic stress can result in the death of the brain cells resulting in brain atrophy and a decrease in its mass. Of course, the result would be a decrease in cognition and perhaps, memory loss. In addition, it is very well-known that the brain remodels itself with structural changes in its cellularity and circuitry when put under constant stress for chronic periods.
Effects of Stress on the Autonomic Nervous System
Your autonomic nervous system, especially the sympathetic nervous system, plays an essential role in the “fight and flight” response of the body in stressful situations. However, in abnormal situations where stress persists for a long time, catecholamine (epinephrine and norepinephrine) levels increase in the blood leading to sustained sympathetic nervous system without activation of the counteractive parasympathetic system. This is problematic in the long run affecting the cardiovascular system and all other body organs.
Effects of Stress on Respiratory System
During a stress response, your body reacts such that your breathing increases, and you breathe faster to distribute more and more oxygen to the body. However, this is problematic for patients having respiratory diseases like asthma, emphysema, or interstitial lung disease, as stress makes it even harder for them to breathe.
Effects of Stress on Reproductive System
Stress is exhausting for almost every part of the body. Thus, losing your sexual desires in times of stress is not uncommon. Long-term stress can drop the testosterone levels in males to such an extent that erectile dysfunction occurs.4 This can even affect the production of sperms and may make a person impotent. Chronic stress also increases the risk of infections in organs like prostates. In women, chronic stress affects the menstrual cycle, making bleeding irregular, painful, and heavier.