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Health Effects

Physician developed and monitored.

Original Date of Publication: 08 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Karen Larson, M.D.,Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 18 Jun 2007

Original Source:

  • Untreated stress can cause severe health problems
  • Stress increases blood pressure and causes digestive problems
  • Chronic stress may affect the immune system and lower the ability to fight illness
  • Mental health can be affected by stress, which can worsen depression

Home » Stress » Health Effects

Health Effects of Stress

If left untreated, stress can affect well being and cause severe health problems. Stress can contribute to heart disease and may cause heart attack, sudden cardiac death, and stroke. In addition to smoking, obesity/overweight, and a lack of exercise and activity, stress is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Stress increases blood pressure, constricts blood vessels, raises cholesterol levels, triggers abnormal heart rates (arrhythmias), and increases the rate at which blood clots.

Stress often causes gastrointestinal problems. It can affect the stomach, causing stomach ulcers, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Stress also increases the risk for developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and colitis.

There is growing evidence that stress affects the immune system. Severe stress may reduce the ability of the immune system to resist bacteria and viruses (including the common cold).

Research also has shown that stress may play a role in a variety of immune system disorders, including HIV/AIDS, herpesvirus, viral infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain allergies.

Stress also can affect mental health. When a person feels as though stress is overwhelming and unrelenting on a daily basis, it can lead to a variety of mental health conditions (e.g., clinical depression).

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