A Quick Glance at the Dangers of Stress

Stress_3088120425_0eeb73ecef_mStress and its negative effects may have accumulated over the winter months, fueled by darkness, extreme cold and snow, limited outdoor activity, work, deadlines, and worries over holiday debt. It’s really getting to you, right? Well, it’s time to get rid of it. With spring coming, an increase in natural sunlight, greening trees and blooming flowers can all improve your mood. So, embrace spring beauty!

What does stress do to you?

Obviously, it causes negative emotions and unhealthy behaviors (e.g. overeating, increased consumption of alcohol, and smoking), but I’m going to show a few “pathophysiological facts” associated with stress.

Firstly, stress over-produces inflammatory agents/factors, resulting in an imbalance of immune regulation. Chronic stress and/or depression can increase the body’s production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-6. According to researchers, high serum levels of IL-6 have been linked to risks for several health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health complications, and some cancers.

Secondly, stress increases stress hormones, leading to increased DNA damage. During psychological stress, our bodies produce such stress hormones as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol that may affect many cells directly. These effects can be temporary, like heart rate and blood pressure, or lasting, such as permanent DNA damage, which may cause the development of cancer. Research shows that short-term exposure (<30 min) of mouse fibroblast cells to any of stress hormones mentioned above, at physiological concentrations, induced at least five-fold increases in DNA damage in treated cells compared with untreated controls.

Finally, stress may weaken one’s immune system, which indirectly contributes to increased risks for cancer, such as some virus-related tumors, which have been shown from both animal and human studies. Furthermore, both stress and depression may decrease activities of cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer cells, thereby compromising immune surveillance against tumors. More studies to illustrate a cause-and-effect relationship between stress and cancer development are on the horizon.

There are many ways to manage stress, which is not the focus of this post. However, exercise is one of the most important keys to minimizing stress. Keep active in the spring. The easy one is walking, so easy that everyone can do it. By moving your body, you can increase circulation, while improving your mood and clearing your mind.

Gardening, landscaping, running, hiking, walking, sightseeing, and boating…the spring activities are endless. Just get out of the door and have some fun.

What’s your favorite spring activity or regiment to relieve stress?

Photo Credit: by chmeredith
J.P. Godbout, R. Glaser. Stress-induced immune dysregulation: implications for wound healing, infectious disease and cancer in the December, 2006 issue of Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.
M.S. Flint et al. Induction of DNA damage, alteration of DNA repair and transcriptional activation by stress hormones in the June 2007 issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.