Sometimes, a little bit of stress can be a good thing. When it comes to things like deadlines or being on time for a flight, stress is almost beneficial. In today’s world, however, our fast-paced lives make us all too familiar with stress, despite knowing about its negative effects on our mind — and our body.
Now, a new study is emphasizing the downside of prolonged stress on your health.
New research from scientists in California looked at the link between high levels of stress hormones and increased risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
When you’re stressed, your body releases several hormones, like cortisol, that prepare the body for a fight-or-flight response to perceived danger. Once these hormones flood your body, blood vessels are constricted, heart rate increases, and so does the force with which your heart pumps blood throughout your body.
But this sustained release of hormones and subsequent elevated blood pressure has consequences — like increasing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. And, as anyone who’s been invested in the outcome of a close Sunday night game and blown through a bag of potato chips, the more stressed you are, the less likely you are to make healthy choices when it comes to coping mechanisms.
Stress affects health at all ages, so if you think this is more pertinent for older folks, think again — the study’s researchers noted that the association between higher levels of stress-related hormones and high blood pressure was more present in younger participants than older ones.
Like death and taxes, stressors are unavoidable. But if you can remember to use them, breathing exercises and practicing gratitude may stave off some of the worst effects.