The Relationship Between Hormones and Stress
Hormones and Stress
Hormones and Stress in the holiday season are upon us! Although this can a wonderful time filled with love and laughter, it can also significantly increase the day-to-day stresses experienced by many people; this can easily turn into chronic stress. Did you know that chronic stress can have a significant impact on your normal hormonal responses? Read on to learn more about the effects stress can have on your body and what you can do about it.
The Hormones and Stress feeling that we all know so well is part of the body’s normal response to a real or perceived threat. However, your body does not differentiate between serious physical threats and “normal” pressures, and so a heavy workload or demands from your family can build up over time and have a detrimental effect on your health.
The stress response is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response, and it begins in the brain. When a stress is perceived, the amygdala sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream. Adrenaline then accelerates the heartbeat to pump more blood to the muscles in preparation for “flight.” In addition, the pulse, blood pressure, and breathing rate all increase to enhance the amount of oxygen inhaled. Other senses, such as sight and hearing, become sharper.
The Normal Stress Response
During the second phase of the stress response, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which stimulates the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then stimulates the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands, which ensures that the body remains on “high alert.” Cortisol levels remain elevated until the threat passes; the stress response is then shut down once the brain perceives that the threat is no longer there (http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response).
The Effects of Stress
Prolonged periods of stress prevent the shut-down of the normal stress response because the body remains on high-alert and producing cortisol. The long-term exposure to cortisol and other Hormones and Stress has a number of negative effects throughout the body, including:
- In the respiratory system, the accelerated breathing rate could lead to asthma or panic attacks (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx).
- In the cardiovascular system, prolonged periods of an elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.
- In the liver, the increased levels of cortisol stimulate the production of glucose in anticipation of increased energy demands. Such prolonged exposure to elevated blood glucose levels might increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
- Some animal studies have suggested that chronic stress can reduce testosterone levels and sperm production and maturation in men; it can even lead to erectile dysfunction and impotence.
- In women, chronic stress can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle, worsened premenstrual syndrome symptoms, and reduced libido.
- Stress can also dampen the immune system.
- Emotionally, stress can affect your sleep, increase irritability, anxiety, and depression, and reduce concentration.
How to Reduce the Effects of Stress
There is no need to worry: there is a lot you can do to counteract the natural stress responses that occur at this time of year. It is important to understand what makes you stressed, as well as what makes you relax. For example, there are several lifestyle changes that can help reduce stress (http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-relieving-stress):
- Take time out to do something you enjoy
- Express your feelings
- Use relaxation techniques such as meditation
- Exercise regularly; exercise is one of the best ways of reducing stress
Because many of the symptoms of chronic stress are also associated with low hormones, such as sleep loss, fatigue, and low testosterone levels, we recommend getting your Hormones and Stress levels checked if you experience any prolonged, unusual or unexplained stress. At AAI Clinic, we can measure your Hormones, Testosterone Injections, and Stress and make recommendations regarding any hormone replacement therapy or supplements that could alleviate your stress-related symptoms.
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- Golbidi, S., J.C. Frisbee, and I. Laher, Chronic stress impacts the cardiovascular system: animal models and clinical outcomes. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, 2015. 308(12): p. H1476-98.
- Bergmann, N., F. Gyntelberg, and J. Faber, The appraisal of chronic stress and the development of the metabolic syndrome: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies. Endocr Connect, 2014. 3(2): p. R55-80.
- Kalaitzidou, I., et al., Stress management and erectile dysfunction: a pilot comparative study. Andrologia, 2014. 46(6): p. 698-702.
- Gannon, L., et al., Perimenstrual symptoms: relationships with chronic stress and selected lifestyle variables. Behav Med, 1989. 15(4): p. 149-59.
- Golkar, A., et al., The Influence of Work-Related Chronic Stress on the Regulation of Emotion and on Functional Connectivity in the Brain. PLoS ONE, 2014. 9(9): p. e104550.