American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Relax: Keeping Stress Hormones in Check

Stressed manWhile occasional stress may not affect you, regular stressful episodes can eventually begin to take a toll on your health if not properly managed.

Every time we become stressed, our body reacts by producing and releasing cortisol into the bloodstream. Studies show that high levels of this stress hormone can produce serious health problems and increase the chances of dying from heart disease.

Not all stress is bad. In fact, a small rise in cortisol levels is normal and part of your body's natural response to stress.

Normal cortisol levels actually help to strengthen the heart muscle, and to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels,” says Jonathan J. Vitale, DO, an osteopathic family physician from New York

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However, if you experience chronic stress over time, you may develop higher-than-normal cortisol levels, putting you at risk for developing sleeping, memory and digestive problems.

Signs of Stress

You might suffer from chronic stress if you experience:

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Irritability

  • Weight gain

If you suffer from chronic stress symptoms, Dr. Vitale recommends visiting your physician for proper diagnosis and to determine a stress management strategy. 

“Most of the time, a few key lifestyle changes are all it takes to reduce stress and improve your health,” he adds. 

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your wellbeing. They listen and partner with you to help you get healthy and stay well.

Coping with Stress

Here are some ways you can cope better with stress:

  1. Avoid sugar and toxins, such as cigarette smoke; limit caffeine consumption, and reduce starchy carbohydrates.

  2. Implement recovery-based exercise, such as walking, Pilates or yoga, at the end of workouts to regulate cortisol levels.

  3. Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation.

 

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