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How stress can shave years off your life

Posted in: General Health 03 Apr, 2012

Everyone has had a stressful period in their life followed by an unexplained illness. Whether it was the flu during the summer after your final exams, a crippling stomach ache during your driving test or a three-day migraine after your wedding, we all accept that our bodies react negatively to excessive bouts of worry and stress.

New research has discovered exactly how we end up being so run down during stressful periods, as scientists found a difference in the immune system of people who had recently suffered through difficult experiences.

The tests have shown that those of us who are under pressure develop a resistance to a stress hormone known as cortisol, causing the inflammatory responses to grow. The people tested were given a small dose of a cold virus and then tested to see if they had caught the germ. The results showed that inflammatory responses feed off stress and can raise the risks of colds.

Researcher Professor Sheldon Cohen, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania found that this type of inflammation can also cause more serious illnesses such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and autoimmune diseases, meaning that a succession of stressful situations could literally shorten your life span.

According to the British Psychological Society, stress can also cause memory loss, aggression in men or depression. Thinking laterally, stress can cause sleeplessness, long working hours and a diet high in fat and salt which can increase the chances of suffering from high blood pressure – one of the leading causes of death in the developed world.

If there were an easy way to banish stress from our lives, we would all use it. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as that, but there are techniques which can be learnt in order to minimise the effects that these situations have on our physical wellbeing.

Learning to effectively deal with stress can help us lead a longer and healthier life. Contrary to popular belief, it does not necessarily need to involve completely cutting something out of your life, although a rebalancing of priorities can be very beneficial, particularly when the stress you are suffering is down to a particularly challenging situation or event.

Some of the best ways to lead a more relaxed lifestyle, according to the website Active Steps To Reduce Stress, is to enhance your ‘TLCB’ (thinking, lifestyle, communication and behaviour) as they are the “fourf key components of healthy living and working”.

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