Everyone gets stressed from time to time. It’s normal when work is busy or holidays are near to feel an increased level of anxiety, but when stress becomes chronic (either lasting for long periods of time or reoccurring frequently) you have a problem. Prolonged stress takes a toll on the human body, affecting the heart, blood pressure levels and even the way your body distributes fat.
Stress is a mechanism that actually evolved to help us. You may have heard of the “fight or flight” response which evolved to help humans have advantages when facing dangerous opponents. It works like this:
- human sees a saber-toothed tiger
- instinctive stress response is triggered
- the body releases large amounts of adrenaline and cortisol
- fat is released into the bloodstream (for energy)
- human is now ready to either fight or flee from opponent
Stress is extremely useful in life-threatening situations, like a run in with a saber-toothed tiger, however in modern times stress is triggered far more often and in far less dangerous situations. A tight deadline at work or an unpleasant boss can stimulate the body’s stress response. The extra adrenaline and cortisol that is released causes your heart to beat faster and blood pressure to increase which is good if you are going to be exerting energy to flee a predator, but not so good if the majority of your day is spent in a sedentary style. Over time, stress can contribute to heart issues.