Health Consequences Of Stress


How Stress Affects Your Body

How can stress make you sick?

Stress is a normal physiological reaction that occurs when there is pressure or aggression from our environment. Each of us is exposed to stress, but we do not all react in the same way.

In some of the most vulnerable people, stress generates chronic anxiety and is at the origin of certain illnesses such as depression, burn-out, alcoholism, but also... cardiovascular diseases.

Acute and chronic stress

Acute stress is the stress that occurs as a result of a trigger such as waiting for a decision or the prospect of having to make a public speech. It is short-lived and can even have a positive effect on the body by increasing performance tenfold.

However, sometimes the stressful situation lasts much longer when stress episodes are very frequent or when the person does not respond adequately to the stress.

L’organisme entre alors dans une phase d’épuisement : les hormones produites pour contrer le stress le sont en permanence, ce qui est très coûteux en énergie. L’une de ces hormones, le cortisol, bloquerait alors la production de neurones dans l’hippocampe, conduisant potentiellement à la dépression.

An increased risk for cardiovascular disease

In the long term, chronic stress would encourage the appearance of many diseases and worsen their evolution. A study published in 2004, which has since become a reference, had shown the significant impact of chronic stress on cardiovascular health by influencing hypertension in particular.

This would multiply by 2.5 the risk of contracting a myocardial infarction!

Cardiac risks modulated by different psychological profiles?

The interest in psychological profiles associated with cardiovascular risk is a complementary approach to the identification of stressors.

Overall, this approach suggests that an imbalance between an individual's characteristics and the demands of his or her environment is at the origin of the occurrence of stress. This imbalance is even more important than the nature of the stressors. The researchers have therefore described behavioral profiles that are likely to be at greater risk of these imbalances.

Friedman and Rosenman first described a Type A behavioral profile characterized by a lust for performance and the increasing accomplishment of things in an ever-shorter time frame. Several studies have demonstrated coronary over-morbidity and an increased risk of myocardial infarction in type A 4-5-6 individuals.

Nevertheless, its prognostic relevance has gradually been questioned and other personality characteristics, such as propensity to hostility, have taken over in more recent work. Thus, researchers have given rise to the D10 type profile characterized by negative affectivity (propensity to experience anxiety, discouragement, or irritation) and inhibition in social relationships.

Thus, this profile was able to predict cardiovascular mortality and vulnerability to myocardial infarction more reliably than the isolated existence of each of its components in some studies. Moreover, in addition to cardiovascular disease, chronic stress could lead to many illnesses such as certain skin infections, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.