How can stress lead to death

Bad for the heart

It is widely known that chronic stress is primarily “on the pump”, the heart. The permanent alarm puts a particular strain on the heart and circulation inside. The consequences of stress are high blood pressure, increased blood lipid levels and increased deposits in the blood vessels - the dreaded arteriosclerosis. Ultimately, the consequences can be fatal: those who are constantly electrified are at risk of heart attacks and strokes. But while infarction and the like used to be regarded as typical managerial illnesses, stress-related cardiovascular diseases can now be found in large sections of the population. In the fortunately extremely rare - extreme case, stress can be directly fatal: If the stress is too great, the heart “overturns” at some point, the oxygen is no longer sufficient and the dreaded heart attack, a stress-related heart muscle collapse, occurs. Stress-related heart muscle weakness, stress cardiomyopathy, is more common and can often only be distinguished from a real heart attack in hospital.


Rebel stomach

But sustained stress also affects completely different body systems. It is practically proverbial that stress affects the stomach. Because the stress hormones also influence the vegetative nervous system, which is responsible for digestion, among other things. The body then produces more stomach acid, for example, which can lead to heartburn and stomach ulcers.

In addition, because other body processes have priority under stress, the digestive processes fall behind. Some stress victims therefore get chronic digestive problems: They suffer from constipation or diarrhea.


Tense muscles, vulnerable immune system

In others, the constant tension is also painfully noticeable in the muscles: They are tense, suffer from headache attacks or from chronic back pain.

Also not to be underestimated is the fact that stress weakens the immune system in the long run. Bacteria and viruses have an easy job in the body of stressed people: Stress victims, for example, suffer more often from annoying rhinitis and cold sores bloom.


Unhealthy lifestyle

Corresponding studies have not been able to confirm that stress directly increases the risk of cancer. However, people tend to lead an unhealthy lifestyle in stressful situations: they eat fast food, smoke a chain or drink more alcohol than usual - with the known health risks of obesity and diabetes, liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Long-term exposure can also worsen existing illnesses: For atopic dermatitis sufferers, the stress literally gets under their skin and eczema flares up. In diabetics, blood sugar levels suddenly skyrocket.


The soul also suffers

In view of the abundance of effects that negative stress has on the body, mental damage is quickly forgotten. They are no less serious than the physical ones: those who are constantly under electricity react initially with inner tension, nervous restlessness, irritability, poor concentration and sleep disorders. Later on there is a risk of exhaustion and even tangible mental illnesses such as burn-out syndrome, anxiety, panic attacks and depression.

Especially when you are stressed, you should pay particular attention to physical and psychological warning signals. Pain is still the most important sign with which the body draws our attention to grievances - this applies to stomach, head and back pain and especially to chest pain, which can indicate a heart attack. Then you should consult a doctor in any case to be on the safe side. He can find out whether your symptoms are just a warning shot from the body or whether certain illnesses are already present.


Relieving pressure: sport and relaxation

However, other effects of stress are not immediately noticeable - for example high blood pressure and increased sugar or cholesterol levels. You should therefore take the time for regular medical check-ups, especially in stressful phases. In this way, risk factors can be uncovered. If you recognize the warning signals and take them seriously, you can take countermeasures before body and soul no longer participate.

It is best, however, not to let it get to the point where the stress causes damage. Avoid unnecessary pressure - a lot of things that we believe absolutely have to be, on closer inspection, turn out to be not that important. Try to take things easier and let them be fives for once - perfectionism is one of the biggest stress traps.

Make sure that the constant pressure does not go to the substance by taking care of compensation. How this works best is a question of type: While some are working out excess stress hormones while exercising, others can help with targeted relaxation with yoga & Co. or simply a relaxing bath. You can find more tips on how to outsmart stress in our chapter "Coping with stress".

Date: January 20, 2011