In Stress and Health

Stress and Health: How do you adapt to stress on the biological level? – Part I

Our personal experiences and behaviours are responsible for our stress perception. When you assume the situation as stressful, physiological and psychological responses are initiated, creating adaptation or allostasis that means “stability through change”. Allostasis is the optimal operation of regulatory systems, as it links the central nervous system with the endocrine and immune systems.

Allostatic load develops as a result of ‘wear and tear’ on the body due to chronic stress or poor recovery, moderated by a mismatch between demand and coping. The distinction between short-term adaptation and long-term distress is obvious when conditions of frequent or enduring stresses are considered or when the system loses its ability to return to homeostatic level after the stress is over.

In this post, I would like to talk about unremitting stress, which has a negative impact on the immune system suppressing it and increasing our susceptibility to infections, heart disease, and cancer. A number of studies have showed adverse effects of stress on health suggesting that stress can suppress immune function under some conditions while enhancing it under others. Under certain conditions, the stress response prepares our cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and neuroendocrine systems for fight or flight.

Societal changes might prove this. One of such examples is when radical British privatization performed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher brought the changes to the corporate world through creating competition, it challenged security in the employees’ professional lives. The described event refers to frequent stress, when surges in blood pressure trigger myocardial infarction in susceptible individuals, and thereby increase their risk for a heart disease.

Surveys with similar societal changes reported increases in body mass index, need for sleep, incidences of stroke and high level of cholesterol. The cardiovascular system plays an essential role in maintain the functioning and integrity of each of the major systems throughout our body.

Next time, we’ll talk about our stress response and the development and progression of cancer.

A partial extract from my up-coming book Stress and Health: What you need to know for your well-being

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