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 Health Hazards Associated With Stress

by Godwin Ihesie

 

A healthy person is one who is spiritual active, balanced emotionally (psychically) and physically fit. But in today’s modern world, where despite all advancement and progress made in the field of human medicine and health, people are still far from enjoying good and radiant health.

With the astronomical growth in the number of healthcare practitioners and the proliferation of modern health research centers and health institutions all over the world, the degenerative diseases such as Cancers, Diabetes mellitus, Hypertension, Stroke, Mental illness, HIV/AIDS, etc, are remarkably on the increase.

Some concerned health scientists are telling us that the main reason for the seemingly health crisis been witnessed globally is that health scientists are giving too much attention to the physical causes of diseases, e.g. nutrition, infections, heredity, trauma, accidents and poisons; and are greatly overlooking the things which emanate from deep within us (emotions, thoughts, etc), which things the Lord Jesus told over 2000 years ago are what defile the body.

It is only recently that studies revealed that the greatest cause of all the degenerative diseases in the modern day world is chronic stress arising from all manners of sustained negative thoughts and emotions.

It was Hans Selye (1936) who first drew the attention of the world to the effects of stress on the physical body. According to Selye, “stress is the body’s reaction to demand made upon it” – which may arise from severe physiological or psychological tension.

The science of psycho-neuro-immunology (i.e. the study of the connections between the brain, the central nervous system, the innate defenses and the body; or simply the “mind-body-connection”) has shown that our thoughts, feelings and emotions affect the body. And as the saying goes: “we are actually what we think we are”. This is so because our brain translates our thoughts and emotions (stress) into some forms of electrical impulses that can trigger biochemical changes that affect our bodies in like manners.

When the body is under stress, it releases high voltage chemicals such as adrenaline, noradrenalin, cortisone, etc. It is these chemical which in real dangerous situations prepare the body for quick survival actions or for what has been termed “Fight or Flight Reactions”.

In the face of sudden threat or acute stress, it is the sudden surge of these high voltage chemicals that gives the body the nearly super-human strength to think faster, take appropriate and quick actions to overcome and survive an attack or to come out of severely dangerous situation or threat. Stress is a fundamental part of living that compels us to struggle and be alert both physically and spiritually here on earth; for, it induces the need to struggle for survival and it compels every creature (man or animal) to obey the basic Law of Motion – that is, the “motion of the right kind”. It is the right kind of motion (stress) that sustains life, and through the right kind of stress or movement, we constantly absorb the life-maintaining energy from the radiating system of the universe.

Therefore, nobody can actually avoid the right kind of stress, since it is the response of the body to the demand and the need to constantly struggle to remain alive and alert which ensures progress, development and harmony in every aspect of our being. So the normal and natural sudden “fight or flight reactions” (or the normal and natural stress reactions) are generally transient and may cause little or no harm to the body, since the high voltage chemicals -adrenalin, cortisols, etc. – produced in the body to change the blood composition and blood radiation for survival actions or escape are burnt off or metabolized in the process. However, stress becomes abnormal and dangerous to the human body when it becomes chronic.

In today’s world, the spiritual dimension of our being – which is the most fundamental quality of human existence here on earth – is often completely neglected or even denied. So many people are unaware that it is the maintenance of the balance between our earthly or material and spiritual goals and aims that creates harmony in soul and body and therefore ensures good and radiant health.

The emphasis in our modern day society is excessive passion for intellectual works, gross materialism, aggressive and “mad cravings to accumulate earthly riches or to attain to some earthly prominence…” Together with these go the accompanying worries, anxieties, evil thoughts, fear, hate, envy, jealously and the occasional violent fits of negative emotions and anger.  These are the factors, which when they become sustained, prolonged or chronic, put the body constantly under a state of emergency (i.e. “fight or flight reactions”) or chronic stress.

Chronic stress brings disharmony between the body and soul and therefore diseases because it puts the body constantly under high tension. The words “tension”, “pressure” and “stress” are often synonymous. Studies have shown that a person whose body is always under high tension always exhibits high levels of the so-called stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalins, etc,) which are poorly metabolized or poorly excreted in such a person.

Let us at this junction examine some of the dangers of chronic stress on the body.

 

Diseases of the Cardiovascular System

As noted above, a person whose body is always under high tension (chronic stress) experiences a tightening of the blood vessels leading to the head, brain and all over the body. With the narrowing of the blood-carrying vessels (arteries and arterioles) there is consequent poor blood circulation. With poor blood circulation, less blood and life-giving oxygen flow to the heart muscles. The heart may attempt to increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain and heart muscles by increasing the force of contractions. It is the persistent increase in this force of contraction that gives rise to what has become kwon as Primary or Essential Hypertension – “the silent killer” of our time. It is the tightening of the blood vessels with the consequent poor blood circulation arising from the body’s constant high tension or chronic stress that result in a rise in blood pressure:

Hypertension. The stress of a violent fit of anger has been shown to elevate the blood levels of the male hormone (testosterone), adrenalins, cortisols, cholesterols, etc; and it is the chronic high levels of these stress substances (chemicals) that expose an individual to a very high risk of arteriosclerosis which is the most common cause of coronary heart diseases such as blocked arteries, heart attacks, angina pain and other cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, stroke etc.

Many hypertensive patients have been found to always be in a state of increased high body tension due to excessive worries, fear, anxieties, mental and emotional stress.

 

The Nervous System

Chronic stress raises the levels of stress hormones, especially cortisol. Chronically high levels of cortisol in the blood and the brain disturb the activities of the neurotransmitters and these often result in what are known as “Psycho- physical Imbalances”, poor memory, tension headaches, insomnia, irritability, stiffness of the neck muscles, depression, poor productivity, inability to concentrate, aggressive behavior, etc. Chronic stress is known to be the number one killer of brain cells that leads to loss of memory power.

 

 Digestive Disturbances

The digestive system is directly connected to the nervous system. Chronic or acute stress affects the nervous system and therefore causes digestive disturbances as well. Conditions like peptic and duodenal ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, liver insufficiencies, gall bladder diseases, etc, have all been tied to chronic stress. High levels of stress hormones  increase the appetite for junk foods with high calories; and many people, especially women eat excessively without control in an effort to combat stress, and this often result in excessive body weight that can lead to a variety of health problems.

 

 Immune Disorders

Studies have shown that there is very close connection between stress and the immune system. Chronic high levels of cortisol due to chronic stress have been known to suppress the immune system and the ability of the body to fight off infections or other internal and external threats.

Chronic elevation of cortisol has been found to:

– Reduce the white blood cells count, thus causing a delay in the body’s ability to repair or heal damage to the tissues of the body.

– Destroy the T-cells in the thymus, a major component of our defense.

Chronic stress lowers the aspect of the immune system that is responsible for engulfing cancerous cells in the body.

Chronic stress arising from deep inner fear, jealousy and excessive grief weakens the kidneys, paralyses the spirit (the inner core of man) and breaks down the body’s psychic defenses, and most importantly, weakens the ability of the liver to resist the establishment of cancerous centers in the body.

 

Chronic Stress and Breast Cancers

            Almost 90% of women who develop breast cancer are often the victims of marriage or friendship breakdown. It is a known fact that breast cancer like any other cancer is often diagnosed twelve or more months after a period of traumatic emotional breakdown or prolonged mental, emotional and psychic stress.

All deep negative emotions (unexpressed thoughts of rejection, thoughts of revenge, despair, anger , etc,) weaken the liver, affect the functions of the entire endocrine glands negatively and destroy that part of the immune system that destroys cancerous cells and centre as soon as they appear anywhere in the body. The degree of malignamacy is a function of the intensity of the chronic stress retained.

 

Skin and Hair disorders

Chronic stress and high body tension increase the tendency to skin problems like acnes, rashes, eczema, as well as the flair up of chickenpox and shingles cause by herpes zoster virus.

Chronic stress causes the hair to turn grey prematurely; it also leads to hair loss in most people.

 

The Reproductive System

In women: most of the female reproductive problems including infertility are now directly or indirectly linked with chronic stress. The anxieties, worries and the apprehension of been stigmatized as a barren woman – in a society that so much cherishes motherhood –  and the constant inner struggle puts pressure or stress on most women.

Also, the negative and psychological trauma arising from past sexual abuse, resentment, anger over past disappointments suffered in the hands of the opposite sex are forms of prolonged chronic stress.

Chronic stress, according to healthcare researchers, disrupts the hormonal and neurological communications between the brain, hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the gonads; and these may result in:

– The alteration of the normal concentration of the female hormones that

Regulate female fertility.

– Ovulation disorders and high prolactin levels in the blood.

– Hormonal imbalance is a major factor in female infertility. Chronic stress in

women often results in psychological blockages to conception and pregnancy.

Most of the gynecological problems seen today in the field of medicine, e.g. uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, menstrual disorders and other female reproduction insufficiencies are now largely associated with chronic stress due to unresolved or unexpressed negative emotions.

In men:  Chronic stress arising from home and workplace worries about poor sexual performance, and unresolved sexual orientation may lead to complete spermatogenic arrest, low sperm count, suppressed libido, and erectile dysfunctions and prostrate disorder in men.

 

As can be seen from the above, stress can either be positive or negative; for, it all depends on how an individual react to it. But nobody can do without stress!  

 

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