Stress: A Slow Killer

Stress: A Slow Killer

Unlike other obvious causes of death like strokes and heart attacks, stress has managed to fly under the health consciousness radar primarily because it only plays the role of enable or accomplice in the act of murder. No one has ever literally died of stress. But stress induced illness would probably fill a few books if we decided to go through each in detail. From anxiety leading to insomnia, fatigue and other such related conditions, there are more physical illnesses like ulcers, hypercholesterimia even obesity-induced diabetes.

At this point it is necessary to point out that stress is not a complete evolutionary flaw. In fact, stress is still very much useful to our daily lives, or how else would we find the motivation to power through that essay when it is due the next morning, or balance that account our promotion hangs on in time for the annual audit. When we are stressed our body releases the hormone cortisol to increase our level of alertness and awareness. Of course once upon a time, this was more useful when passing through unsafe territory like a forest for hunting. Falling asleep and getting eaten by a lion wasn’t exactly ideal for moving the specie forward. But fast forward to 2015, if you are reading this, chances are you have never even had to kill your own food before cooking it. However, circumstances that threaten our safety and comfort are arguably increased in the post-industrial world.

To keep up with the daily struggle of existence we need be stressed a little bit, but then, like everything, when it becomes a habit in excess, it can take a very detrimental toll on our health. Our body is a machine of extreme utility, but no level of complexity will enable us to escape the basic laws of thermodynamics. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can be transformed from one form to another. So basically, we cannot manufacture new energy on demand. Our body walks around this problem by shutting down or at least slowing down some functions temporarily to help us cope with more urgent needs. Unfortunately, cortisol slows down our liver action so much that we process fats and cholesterol a lot slower than we should. The result of this is an increased levels of unprocessed fats and cholesterol leading to obesity and hypercholestrimia. Cholesterol clogs up our arteries increasing our chances of getting a stroke and heart attacks. Not to mention stress also increases our blood pressure in a bid to supply our brain and body with energy to heighten alertness.

Obesity has been in the media for its many associated illnesses and how it can generally disrupt our lifestyle. Most of us are aware of the need for exercise and watching our diets to stay in shape, but hardly anyone ever talks about the need to control stress. You might be surprised how much stress management will do for your weight. It also isn’t uncommon to see slim framed people with high cholesterol completely unrelated to obesity. Stress doesn’t necessarily have to get us fat before exposing us to the dangers of cardiovascular illnesses.

In our daily lives, stress can exert a huge impact on our relationships by affecting our temperament, causing us to be constantly fatigued, and even encouraging psycho-social illnesses like depression. If you have identified habitual stress patterns in your daily routine, it might be worth it to explore stress management techniques and seek professional help where it is needed. You just might be saving your life doing this.


William Ifeanyi Moore is a prolific writer, poet, and spoken word artist, with a keen interest in exploring how different artistic media influence cultures and societies. He holds a Master’s degree in Pharmacy from the University of Portsmouth.


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