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The Truth About What Stress Does to You

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Why does stress make your heart race?

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Why does stress make your heart race?

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Your heart takes things literally. When you’re under the gun, it responds as if you are in immediate physical danger. It steps up its blood-pumping so you are ready to sprint to safety -- even if the “danger” is not life and death.

 

Ask yourself: Is this really a threat? Or can I dial down my reaction?

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Your heart gets used to everyday frustrations.

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Your heart gets used to everyday frustrations.

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Even if it’s the same traffic jam or other problem that happens all the time, it still takes a toll. Over time, all that aggravation adds up. It can curb the blood flow to your heart, damage your arteries, and make blood clots more likely.

 

Ask yourself: Can I change this? If not, what’s a better way to respond?

Long-term stress causes ...

Long-term stress causes ...

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Over time, ongoing stress can wear down your immune system. That leaves you more vulnerable to infections.

 

Stress can make ulcers worse. But bacterial infections are to blame for most ulcers.

 

Ask your doctor: Are my health problems related to stress?

Your teeth are the one part of your body that stress doesn’t mess up.

Your teeth are the one part of your body that stress doesn’t mess up.

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Some people clench or grind their teeth because of stress. You might not even know you’re doing it. Your partner might have noticed, though.

 

Do this: Ask your dentist if you need a mouth guard to protect your teeth while you sleep.

What helps tame the effects of stress?

What helps tame the effects of stress?

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Chalk up another benefit for being active! It’s a proven way to burn off stress, boost your mood, and get more energy. It may be the last thing you feel like doing after a rough day. But it’s one of your best options.

 

Do this, too: Spend time with loved ones, cuddle with your pet, and take time to unplug and unwind.

Anything that lowers stress is good for you.

Anything that lowers stress is good for you.

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It all depends on what you pick. Go for a run, talk with a friend, or cuddle with your puppy and you’ll do yourself a favor.

 

But do you reach for a cigarette, another beer, or too much “comfort” food? That’s going to backfire. Shift to better ways to blow off stress.

 

Think: Sweat, socialize, or snuggle.

What does your liver do when you’re stressed?

What does your liver do when you’re stressed?

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Your liver does this to give you energy. Your body reabsorbs that blood sugar if you don’t use it all. That isn’t always the case, though. If you’re overweight or at risk for type 2 diabetes, that extra sugar can lead to diabetes.

 

Remember: When you manage stress well, it’s good for your blood sugar levels.

Some stress is helpful.

Some stress is helpful.

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A little bit is good. That pressure you feel before a job interview or a big test can help you do your best.  It helps you rise to a challenge, step up your stamina, and focus.

 

Other changes that happen in your body help you, too. The pupils of your eyes get larger so you can see better. And your blood vessels widen so more blood gets to your muscles.

 

Ask yourself: Is there anything good about this situation?

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Great job! You know a lot about stress -- and how to protect yourself from it.

Not bad. Now that you’ve learned about stress, it’s time to relax a bit.

Uh-oh. You might want to take some deep breaths and learn more about stress relief.

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