• Stress and Poor Health: A Never-Ending Loop

    Everyone has experienced stress. Sometimes stress can be a positive force, motivating you to perform well at your piano recital or job interview. But often — like when you're stuck in traffic — it's a negative force. If you experience stress over a prolonged period of time, it could become chronic — unless you take action. Have you ever found yourself with sweaty hands on a first date or felt your heart pound during a scary movie? Then you know you can feel stress in both your mind and body.

    This automatic response developed in our ancient ancestors as a way to protect them from predators and other threats. Faced with danger, the body kicks into gear, flooding the body with hormones that elevate your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, boost your energy and prepare you to deal with the problem.

     

    These days, you're not likely to face the threat of being eaten. But you probably do confront multiple challenges every day, such as meeting deadlines, paying bills and juggling childcare that make your body react the same way. As a result, your body's natural alarm system — the “fight or flight” response — may be stuck in the on position. And that can have serious consequences for your health.

     

    Even short-lived, minor stress can have an impact. You might get a stomach-ache before you have to give a presentation, for example. More major acute stress, whether caused by a fight with your spouse or an event like an earthquake or terrorist attack, can have an even bigger impact.

     

    Multiple studies have shown that these sudden emotional stresses — especially anger — can trigger heart attacks, arrhythmias and even sudden death. Although this happens mostly in people who already have heart disease, some people don't know they have a problem until acute stress causes a heart attack or something worse.


    When stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period, it becomes even more dangerous. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example. But chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body, too.

     

    Stress can make existing problems worse. In one study, for example, about half the participants saw improvements in chronic headaches after learning how to stop the stress-producing habit of “catastrophizing,” or constantly thinking negative thoughts about their pain. Chronic stress may also cause disease, either because of changes in your body or the overeating, smoking and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Job strain — high demands coupled with low decision-making latitude — is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, for example Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk. And once you're sick, stress can also make it harder to recover. One analysis of past studies, for instance, suggests that cardiac patients with so-called “Type D” personalities — characterized by chronic distress — face higher risks of bad outcomes.

    AdWhile the words “fit” and “healthy” are often used synonymously in everyday language, the terms have entirely separate meanings. Fitness describes the ability to perform a given exercise task, and health explains a person’s state of well-being, where physiological systems work in harmony. Although we typically view athletes as fit and healthy, they often are not. The global term we place on unhealthy athletes is the overtraining syndrome. In this current opinion, we propose that two primary drivers may contribute to the development of the overtraining syndrome, namely high training intensity and the modern-day highly processed, high glycemic diet. Both factors elicit a sympathetic response through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, in turn driving systemic reactive oxygen species production, inflammation, and a metabolic substrate imbalance towards carbohydrate and away from fat oxidation, manifesting in an array of symptoms often labeled as the overtraining syndrome. Ultimately, these symptoms reveal an unhealthy athlete. We argue that practitioners, scientists, and athletes may work towards health and alleviate overtraining syndrome by lowering training intensity and removing processed and/or high glycemic foods from the diet, which together enhance fat oxidation rates. Athletes should be fit and healthy.d paragraph text here.