When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections.
The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes).
Stress can also have an indirect effect on the immune system as a person may use unhealthy behavioral coping strategies to reduce their stress, such as drinking and smoking.
Stress is linked to: headaches; infectious illness (e.g. ‘flu); cardiovascular disease; diabetes, asthma and gastric ulcers.
Stress responses have an effect on digestive system. During stress digestion is inhibited. After stress digestive activity increases. This may affect the health of digestive system and cause ulcers. Adrenaline released during a stress response may also cause ulcers.
Stress responses increase strain upon circulatory system due to increased heart rate etc. Stress can also affect the immune system by raising blood pressure.
Hypertension (consistently raised blood pressure over several weeks) is a major risk factor in coronary heart disease (CHD) However, CHD may be caused by eating too much salt, drinking too much coffee or alcohol.
Stress also produces an increase in blood cholesterol levels, through the action of adrenaline and noradrenaline on the release of free fatty acids. This produces a clumping together of cholesterol particles, leading to clots in the blood and in the artery walls and occlusion of the arteries.
In turn, raised heart rate is related to a more rapid build-up of cholesterol on artery walls. High blood pressure results in small lesions on the artery walls, and cholesterol tends to get trapped in these lesions.
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