Man has had to deal with numerous challenges as far as remaining healthy is concerned. Researchers have been able to identify several causes of health problems among human beings and most of them have grave consequences. Stress has been singled out by most investigators as being one of the major causes of both physical and emotional health problems (Niess, Monnikes, Dignass, Klapp, & Arck, 2002). This has been escalated by the frequent hassles, frustrations, and demands in the day to day life experiences.
Attempts to handle all these challenges may end up being overwhelming hence creating a general imbalance in an individual. Reasonable levels of stress have been clinically determined as being helpful particularly when faced with a challenging task like a presentation, examination situation, and deadlines since one becomes alert, energetic, and at full concentration.
However, reliable studies have established that extreme/chronic levels of stress can be destructive to a person’s physical and emotional health thus affecting the general productivity, relationships, as well as the quality of the person’s life in general. The research paper will explore the various effects of stress on an individual’s health.
According to many research findings, prolonged incidences of stress can have serious impacts on an individual’s health. Extreme levels of stress have the capacity of disrupting virtually the entire body system and its functions. Among other effects, stress can increase the rate of heart beat, paralyze the immune system, the risk of heart attack and stroke, affect a person’s fertility, and raise the general levels of fatigue and aging rate.
A research conducted by Hapuarachchi, Chalmers, Winefield, and Blake-Mortimer (2003) found that high levels of oxidative stress, a pro-inflammatory state, high infection rate, and cardiovascular diseases were mostly due to stress.
Hapuarachchi and the team also established that homocysteine, and the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) may lead to cardiovascular infections. They arrived at these conclusions after investigating the relationships that may exist between stress and homocysteine, oxidative stress and CRP.
High levels of CRT and increased levels of pro-oxidant and pro-inflammatory states increase the levels of psychological stress (Hapuarachchi et al., 2003). The study findings further indicate that the levels of anger can be influenced by the levels of homocysteine.
A similar investigation was done by Macleod, Smith, Heslop, Metcalfe, Carroll and Hart (2002) with the objective of finding out the association between self reported psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. The researchers engaged Scottish men only with follow up of about 21 years.
According to the research findings by Macleod et al., there is greater relationship between higher stress, angina, and some of the hospital admissions (2002). However, critical analyses of the findings in relation to heart disease findings have revealed the impact of reporting bias.
Psychological stress, among other psychosocial factors, has been identified by many researchers as playing a role in determining heart-related diseases. This is because stress affects the neuroendocrine mechanisms and cause unhealthy behavior in the victim (Macleod et al., 2002).
Research findings reveal that there is a strong relationship between self reported stress and self reported signs and symptoms of coronary heart disease. Furthermore, there is a relationship between stress and the number of admissions to hospitals for psychiatric disorders.
The correlation between higher levels of stress and angina was also found to be positive. The findings were considered to be under the great influence of reporting bias from the participants leading to high tendency of spurious conclusions as far as psychosocial constructs and health outcomes are concerned (Macleod et al., 2002). It is this critical evaluation of research findings that has helped in the quest for more objective investigations of the association between stress and health outcomes.
Most recent researches have made attempts to investigate the effects of stress on the mental stability of an individual. Robert Soufer, a renowned stress researcher, studied how the brain copes with neurocardiac interaction during stress-induced myocardial ischemia (2004). According to Soufer, the administration of acute mental stress can provoke myocardial ischemia in persons with coronary artery disease (CAD).
A person’s brain is responsible for coordinating memory ability and hence determines an individual’s vulnerability to the cardiovascular manifestation of emotional stress. In deed, the brain’s neurochemical pathways associated with inappropriate fear and anxiety are responsible for cardiovascular effects of stress. In some instances, the brain may trigger inappropriate responses to various stimuli resulting in stress/fear which in turn affects the person’s physical health (Soufer, 2004).
Apart from investigating the role of stress in heart-related health problems, researchers have also sought to find out the influence of stress on immune system of an individual. Niess et al. (2002) conducted a study on the role of stress on immunological diseases and related health problems.
For a long time, stress has been known to significantly influence the continued inflammatory bowel disease. The researchers’ intention was to find out the validity of this belief. Earlier studies have found that stress greatly affects the immune system.
The neuroendocrine system as well as the intestinal epithelia is also known to be escalated by stress. More so, stress has been known to initiate the discharge of pro-inflammatory Th1 cytokines and neuropeptides which include tachykinins (Niess et al., 2002).
It is widely believed that if the neuroendocrine system interacts with the immune system, the intestinal epithelium may be affected resulting in the stimulation of IBD relapses. Prior studies have strongly associated the cause of relapses of ulcerative colitis to stress.
The research by Niess and colleagues had the objective of finding out the significance of psychoneuroimmunological (PNI) approach as far as the pathogenesis of IBD is concerned(2002). A number of studies have traced how stress affects the immune system to the ability of stress to alter the body’s immunological orientation, particularly by affecting the distribution of lymphocytes and the synthesis of cytokines.
Stress can also affect other mediators and mechanisms, such as the neurotransmitters, the hormones, and other immune cells which in turn lead to imbalance in the entire body. It is the various body systems that are responsible for responding to and balancing the otherwise extreme (chronic) levels of stress (Niess et al., 2002). The review done by Niess and his team helps in concluding that stress plays an important role in the emergence of several immunological diseases; the immune and the nueroendocrine systems.
The research paper has explored the various effects of stress on the physical health of an individual. Stress has far-reaching effects, such as causing or enhancing cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, and myocardial ischemia. The paper has also explored the effects of stress on the immune system and the neuroendocrine system.
Many researchers agree that chronic stress plays a significant role in some of the health problems that people encounter from time to time. It can be concluded that the findings on the effects of stress on the physical and emotional health of people are still varied and complex and further objective studies must therefore be carried out if meaningful conclusions are to be reached.
Hapuarachchi, J. R., Chalmers, A. H., Winefield, A. H., & Blake-Mortimer, J. S. (2003).
Changes in clinically relevant metabolites with psychological stress parameters. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29, 52-59
Macleod, J., Smith, G. D., Heslop, P., Metcalfe, C., Carroll, D., & Hart, C. (2002).
Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease: empirical demonstration of bias in a prospective observational study of Scottish men. British Medical Journal, 324: 1247-51
Niess, J. H., Monnikes, H., Dignass, A. U., Klapp, B. F., & Arck, P. C. (2002). Review on
the influence of stress on immune mediators, neuropeptides and hormones with relevance for inflammatory bowel disease. Digestion, 65, 131-140
Soufer, R. (2004). Neurocardiac interaction during stress-induced myocardial ischemia: how does the brain cope? Circulation, 1710-1712. American Heart Association, Inc.