The Toll of Stress: Shocking Effects on the Body

The Toll of Stress: Shocking Effects on the Body

From money, to work issues to family problems, all of us experience stress. In fact, nearly 8 in 10 Americans report feeling significant stress daily. 1 Unless you are feeling especially overwhelmed, you probably don’t think much about it. Stress is something we should be more aware of though. Negative emotions may have many negative, physical effects on the body.

How does stress affect the body?

It may surprise you to know that a little stress can boost the immune system. Although, dealing with chronic stress lowers the immune system allowing illnesses to creep in. 2 Rarely is stress the root cause of diseases, but how it interacts with our genetics and health can accelerate the spread of disease.

Which diseases are caused by stress?

The short answer is, well, all of them! Stress can lead us to bad choices to try to cope. From overindulging in comfort foods to alcohol to smoking- stress is often the root cause of negative behaviors. Hormones increased by stress also lead to various conditions.

How does stress affect heart health?

All of the above mentioned bad coping devices, overindulging in alcohol or food and smoking, can lead to obesity and high blood pressure. These are known factors leading to heart problems including heart attack and stroke. Stress also reduces blood flow to the heart which is a cause of coronary heart disease. 3

How does stress affect the brain?

A staggering 5.5 million Americans struggle with Alzheimer’s disease everyday. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. 4 Studies show that  links between Alzheimer’s and increased stress hormones such as cortisol may exist. High blood pressure may also lead to Alzheimer’s. In Sweden, researchers found high levels of stress hormones in the brains of mice created bigger amounts of beta-amyloid plaques, the proteins believed to cause Alzheimer’s. 5

How does stress affect fertility?

With approximately 1 in 8 couples struggling with infertility, we can’t help but wonder what role stress plays. Research in 2014 stated that high levels of stress may reduce semen and sperm quality. 6 Another study from 2014 found that women with high levels of a alpha-amylase, a stress-related enzyme in the saliva, were 29% less likely to become pregnant. They were also twice as likely to be infertile than women with low levels of the enzyme. 7

Stress plays a role in diabetes?

Most surprising of all is that scientist now believe a link exists between stress and type 2 diabetes. A study published by JAMA found women with post traumatic stress disorder in particular had almost double the risk of developing the disease than women who had not experienced trauma. 8 A possible explanation to this could be because stress increases the production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol may raise glucose levels.

How do I tackle stress?

To tackle stress, seek support from others and engage in exercise daily. Exercise increases the production of “feel-good” neurotransmitters in the brain known as endorphins. We also posted an article: Managing Mental Health: There’s an App for That which has several apps that contain mood boosting exercises.  If you feel unable to cope with stress, are having suicidal thoughts, or using drugs or alcohol to cope, make an appointment with one of our providers today. You can find a list of them at


1 Saad, Lydia. Gallup. 20 Dec. 2017.  Eight in 10 Americans Afflicted by Stress.
2 Mohd. Razali Salle. 2008 Oct.  Life Event, Stress and Illness.
3 Nordqvist, Christian. Medical News Today. 19 Jan. 2018.Coronary heart disease: What you need to know.
4 Alzheimer’s Association. 2018. Facts and Figures.

5 Glynn, Sarah. Medical News Today. 19 Mar. 2013. Stress Can Lead To Alzheimer’s Disease.

6 Janevic, Teresa,Ph.D., et al.1 Aug. 2015. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Effects of work and life stress on semen quality.
7 Lynch, C.D., et al. 1 May 2014. Oxford Academic. Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study.

8 Roberts, Andrea L. PhD., et al. 15 Mar. JAMA Psychiatry.Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in a Sample of Women A 22-Year Longitudinal Study.


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