Stress and Your Health | Marla Ahlgrimm

Marla AhlgrimmStress is an unavoidable part of life but when it is left unchecked it can have unpleasant side effects – from depression to obesity and digestive issues. In the following brief question and answer session, women’s healthcare expert Marla Ahlgrimm opens up about the body’s response to stress.

Q: What is stress? 

Marla Ahlgrimm: Stress is a subjective feeling of strain or pressure. While stress itself is invisible, its effects can have very tangible consequences.
Q: How does the body respond to stress? 

Marla Ahlgrimm: The clinical term for the process wherein the body adapts to stress is called Allostasis. The “fight or flight” response is perhaps the best-known reaction to sudden stressors that potentially threaten a one’s personal, physical safety. This is when the body releases a sudden surge of epinephrine (adrenaline) into the bloodstream. It is a temporary response in the body that returns to normal over the course of a couple of hours. Long-term stress, however, can cause the body to overproduce cortisol which can cause serious health issues.

Q: What medical conditions are related to chronic stress? 

Marla Ahlgrimm: Chronic stress can cause major wear-and-tear on the body. Women, especially, are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, anxiety, fatigue, memory issues, suppressed immune system, obesity, and digestive system disorders when exposed to prolonged stress hormones.

Q: What are the symptoms of stress? 

Marla Ahlgrimm: Short-term stress can cause a person to feel worried, nervous, and distracted. An adrenaline surge may trigger heart palpitations, sweating, and increased physical ability. Long-term stress can have other emotional and physical effects including chest pain, difficulty breathing, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction (in men), depression, loss of appetite, and insomnia.

Q: What can I do to reduce stress? 

Marla Ahlgrimm: You must first figure out what your stressors are and learn to work through them without apprehension. Additionally, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly will help the body regulate hormones. Don’t smoke or drink excessively and seek emotional support from family and friends.

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