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It is not surprising then, that individuals who are highly stressed are more likely to succumb to colds, infections, and herpes breakouts (a viral infection that causes infected people to develop sores on their mouths or genitals).
People with apple body shapes have a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes than do people with "pear" body shapes, where weight is more concentrated in the hips.Hormone release during chronic stress may inhibit the production of cytokines, thus thwarting the body's ability to effectively coordinate the fight against infection.Because of this reduction in cytokines, the immune system's proliferative response (its ability to successfully fight off disease) decreases by 15% or more during chronically stressful situations.However, this activity is not beneficial to your health if it continues for more than a short while.Chronic stimulation of the immune system causes the system to become suppressed overall, and thus become less effective at warding off diseases and infections.Cardiovascular system Chronic activation of stress hormones can raise your heart rate, cause chest pain and/or heart palpitations (sensations that your heart is pounding or racing), and increase your blood pressure and blood lipid (fat) levels.
Sustained high levels of cholesterol and other fatty substances in the blood can lead to atherosclerosis, a disease in which fatty plaques build up on blood vessel walls, restrict blood flow to the heart and sometimes lead to a heart attack.
These hormones can also cause excess belching, farting and other gas problems, and enhance a person's vulnerability to developing Crohn's disease, which is an ongoing inflammation of the membrane lining the colon (the large intestine or bowel).
For more information on Crohn's Disease, please visit our Crohn's Disease Topic Center Chronic stress-hormone induced physical changes can also increase people's appetite, causing them to gain weight and potentially, to become obese.
In the sections below, we explore the contributions of chronic stress to various common medical problems.
Digestive system Many people experience a stomachache or diarrhea when they are stressed.
Similarly, unhealthy stress coping strategies such as smoking, drinking, or overeating can also damage the heart and surrounding blood vessels.