Too Much Stress? How It's Hurting Your Health In Surprising Ways

By: Jessica Migala  |  March/April, 2017

We all know the feeling of being stressed. Our blood pressure seems to rise instantly, we feel our faces flush and our voices get louder as our patience drops to non-existent levels. Stress usually does not bring out our best side. But let's all pause and take a deep breath. Too much stress can affect your body in some concerning ways. Here's three health concerns that may be side effects of being too stressed.

Related: 7 Foods for Stress Relief

Stress Can Make You Gain Weight

For starters, stress might make you gain weight. In a study of more than 5,000 people published in the journal Obesity, those who reported higher stress saw a greater increase in their BMIs over a five-year period compared to less-stressed folks. Previous research shows that weight gain can be caused by inflammation, so the researchers think that stress-induced inflammation may be to blame.

Stress Increases Inflammation

And the inflammation connection goes further. Healthy unsaturated fats (like those found in olive oil and avocados) are typically anti-inflammatory, while saturated fats (like those found in butter and meat) cause in­flammation. But a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry suggests that stress may sabotage this perk. After women ate a high-saturated-fat meal or a high-unsaturated-fat meal, the researchers measured levels of inflammation. Plus they measured how stressful the women's previous day had been. Stressed women eating a high-unsaturated-fat meal experienced a rise in inflammation—as much as if they had eaten the high-­saturated-fat meal. So stress negated some of the benefits associated with eating healthier foods. Not to mention, stress tends to make us crave higher-fat, higher-calorie foods to begin with.

Read On: Should You Try the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Stress Ups Your Heart Disease Risk

How you deal with stress also impacts your health. Penn State researchers found that people who experience more anger or sadness in reaction to stress have lower heart rate variability, meaning there is less difference in the time intervals between heartbeats. This can indicate that the heart isn't good at responding to challenges, increasing heart disease risk. The good news: you can improve how you react to stress by cultivating supportive relationships.

Watch: Eat These Calming Foods for Stress Relief

Related:
3 Ways to Ease Your Stress
How Stressing Out Is Making You Fat