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Are you chronically stressed? You may be putting your health at risk!

By Perrin Braun Nov 20, 2013

 

We all know what it feels like to be stressed. Whether you have trouble sleeping as a looming deadline approaches or your hands start to shake before a big athletic event, a little anxiety seems to be an inevitable part of life. However, stress that is left unchecked can cause a whole host of health problems that range from heart disease to obesity. The good news is that there are certain biomarkers that are relevant for people who are chronically stressed, so knowing your blood status can be a powerful way to help you manage your anxiety! InsideTracker is a great tool for people who feel that they are constantly stressed because it combines blood analysis with a powerful algorithm to show the status of your unique blood biochemistry, so you know which biomarkers you need to improve in order to feel less anxious.stress

What is stress?

So, how do we define stress? When you encounter a perceived threat—when a big dog barks at you while you are on your way to work, for instance—your brain sets off an alarm system inside of your body. This system then works to increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies. Your response to stress is usually self-limited, meaning that your body returns to normal once the threat has passed. While a little stress can be beneficial because it can act as an incentive to accomplish certain goals, constant stress can become a health issue. When you are chronically stressed, your body responds like it is constantly under attack. The long-term activation of your stress-response system can put you at an increased risk of health problems, including:

Anxiety Depression Digestive issues Heart disease Weight gain Sleep problems Memory and concentration impairment

Click here to find out how InsideTracker can help you control your stress levels by analyzing your blood biomarkers!

What role does cortisol play in controlling stress?

Cortisol is commonly referred to as the “stress hormone.” Elevated cortisol levels can often indicate high levels of stress. When the body faces a stressor (such as trauma, emotional exhaustion, or severe calorie restriction), cortisol is synthesized from cholesterol and released by the hypothalamus, which is a part of the brain. Cortisol then diverts energy away from low-priority activity, such as the immune system, and spares available glucose for the brain, putting all energy towards the more immediate threat. In the past, this stress mechanism served us well. After a stressful event occurs, however, it is important for the body’s functions to return to normal, and for the relaxation response to be reactivated. In today’s world, while many stressors certainly exist, there are fewer threats requiring such immediate attention, and our bodies often remain in elevated levels of stress for extended periods of time. When we are chronically stressed, the body continuously releases cortisol, which may result in some of the health problems addressed above.

What role does testosterone play in controlling stress?

Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is present in the bodies of both men and women. In general, when your levels of cortisol rise, your testosterone tends to decrease. This can be especially problematic for athletes who have a high stress level because testosterone plays a key role in development and maintenance of both muscle mass and strength. Optimal levels of this hormone are necessary to create and preserve bone density.  Without enough testosterone, bones can become weaker and more likely to fracture or break.

In the short term, elevated stress can cause symptoms like reduced sex drive, which is related to low levels of testosterone. Over the long term, people can lose muscle tone and mass and may develop mood disorders.

What role does glucose play in controlling stress?

Glucose is the blood sugar that is delivered throughout our bodies, which is derived in part from the carbohydrates that we consume. After we eat foods that are high in carbohydrates, our digestive system breaks them down and turns them into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. From there, the glucose enters individuals cells throughout the body and provides them with the energy that they need to function. So, how does this relate to stress? When you feel anxious, your body prepares to turn on its “flight or fight” response to make sure that it has enough energy readily available. In order for this to happen, stored glucose is released from the liver and into the bloodstream. If you’re chronically stressed, too much blood glucose can result in large, rapid changes in blood sugar levels. This means that if you have elevated blood glucose levels, you might want to get your stress levels in check!

What can we do to reduce stress?

Fortunately, lifestyle modifications and stress management techniques can play a significant role in controlling our anxiety. Identifying how you respond to stress, as well as your personal stressors and relaxants is important. Consider the following tips for coping with stress:

Exercise regularly Eat a healthy diet (think whole foods!) with consistent meal timing Get sufficient sleep and rest Maintain positive, healthy relationships Practice relaxation, whether through yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, listening to music, or laughing Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine intake

The many problems that result from chronically elevated stress levels can impact both physical and mental well-being. The best way to begin managing your anxiety is to have your blood analyzed by InsideTracker. You will be able to determine which stress biomarkers are elevated, and more importantly, receive relevant, personalized, and science-based recommendations to optimize your performance and overall health.

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