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How stress affects the immune system

If you’re going through a stressful period in your life, it can have a huge impact on both your mental and physical health. Being stressed can lower your immunity, making you more susceptible to bacteria and viruses.

What’s chronic stress?

If you’ve been stressed for a long period of time, you have what’s known as chronic stress. As well as affecting your immune system it can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, sleep problems and increase your chances of suffering from a heart attack or stroke.

Stress and your immune system

Having chronic stress can result in you developing inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. When stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol which can cause your body to struggle to regulate its inflammatory response and attack itself.

Your immune system will be further impaired by your body not producing enough lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are a vital part of your immune system as they fight off bacteria and viruses. Digestion is also impaired whilst you’re stressed and this can lead to gastric ulcers.

How to reduce your stress levels

There are lots of reasons why you might be feeling stressed. It could be that you’ve got a stressful job, you’re the main carer for a sick relative, you’ve got money problems or you’ve been simply doing too much. It’s important to recognise what’s causing you stress and try to tackle it if you can. You might benefit from taking a relaxation course, getting advice from a professional or finding a friend you can confide in. For the sake of your health, you need to take action.

 

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