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    How Stress Affects Your Health

    By By Lila Havens, Contributing Writer
    January 24, 2013, 8:59:44 AM EST

    When stress grips your body, you know it. Your heart starts pounding, your muscles tense, your stomach feels tied in knots. Sometimes this response can be a good thing. It may help you escape from an attacker or win your tennis game. But if chronic or overlapping stress doesn't let up, your physical response to it can have far-ranging negative effects on your health.


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    The stages of stress Over 50 years ago, a scientist named Hans Selye recognized that stress was a major cause of illness. He broke the stress response into three stages, which he called the "general adaptation syndrome".

    -The alarm stage occurs when you are frightened or under threat. Your body goes on red alert, releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These increase strength and concentration. Your heart speeds up, sending more blood and oxygen to your muscles so you can take quick action. This "fight or flight" response can be lifesaving, but if it is prolonged it can take a toll on your body. -The resistance stage occurs after the initial extreme reaction. Your body tries to adapt to the continued stress. It remains on alert but at a lower level while it tries to resume its normal functions. If the stress passes, you can start to rebuild your defenses. If it becomes long-term, you move to the third stage. -The exhaustion stage is the "burnout" or "overload" phase. Continued pounding by stress depletes your body's reserves, which puts you at risk for disease.

    This sequence may happen in response to either a physical threat (such as being in a car accident) or an emotional one (such as being laid off from your job). Facing multiple long-term stressors piles extra strain on your system and can quickly lead to exhaustion.

    People can respond differently to the same stressor, such as moving. Past experiences and coping skills they have learned, one's temperament and positive or negative feelings about the stressor can all affect how one will respond. Keep in mind that what may be stressful for one person can be a source of excitement for others. Continue reading about the effects of stress

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