Negative Health Effects of Chronically High Stress Hormones

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In another article here, we describe the release of stress hormones as part of the body’s ‘fear & protection’ reaction. The question is, “what does that mean for how our bodies work?”

The negative health effects of increased stress hormones being released on an ongoing basis are stark and far-reaching.

Almost every current ‘disease of civilization,’ (a term describing the slow ongoing diseases which are the major health concerns for our industrialized society) ranging from heart disease and cancer, through ADHD, infertility and Alzheimer’s, and many more besides can be attributed to the built-up effects and/or the body’s functional responses to increased stress hormone levels. 

Stress hormones fit into two broad categories – the catecholamines (of which the most common hormone known is Adrenaline / Epinephrine) and the glucocorticoids (the most well-known being cortisol). This article serves as a summary of just SOME of the profound effects of the ongoing (chronic) release of these hormones in the body and brain’s intelligent attempt to ‘keep you alive for longer’

Some of the body changes that occur because of stress hormones include:

  • increased speed and pressure of the hearbeat and increased blood pressure,
  • higher blood sugar levels,
  • more free fats/triglycerides floating around in the blood,
  • changes to the relative amounts of LDL and HDL cholesterol, which can contribute to long-term ill-health, particularly in the cardiovascular system.
  • a generalized ‘breaking-down’ state including protein breakdown,
  • thicker blood that is more likely to clot,
  • insulin-resistance leading to diabetes-like symptoms and changes to the liver’s function,
  • bone loss and changes to muscle fibre types.

On top of this when stress hormones are continually released, you are more prone to a great many pyschologica/mental/emotional changes including:

  • feelings of stress, fear, anxiety and depression,
  • decreased short-term memory,
  • decreased concentration and the capacity to learn and retain new information,
  • less of the ‘feel-good’ brain-chemical being available to smooth out your mood,
As well, our sensory systems become ‘dialled up’ and more sensitive,
we are more ‘skittish’ and reactionary, and we have a higher levels of feeling
pain. Another significant effect of consistently high stress hormone levels is
the ‘turning off’ of our primary immune function which leaves us susceptible to
much more sickness and yet more dysfunction.

All of these effects can lead to further estrangement from society, leading to a lack of involvement and input, a lack of feeling important or needed, reduced movement and reduction in self-esteem.

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