High Stress Levels and their impact on health.
Although our Forties can often be the time we are likely to be entering our period of greatest professional achievements and maximising our earning potential, the associated stress that is often part and parcel of the added responsibilities can have huge negative impacts on our health and well-being.
Potentially longer working hours, more pressure and natural declines in our sex hormones are just a few factors that can negatively influence not only our physique but our health too. Unfortunately this can become a viscous circle of more stress, worse habits and a spiral into stress related illness, an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and many other diseases.
I understand time for exercise is short, eating healthy can be difficult and stress from all angles can seem unavoidable. This is a time when health can often take a back seat when it should be a priority.
Stress can be a killer that we may seem resigned to suffer. Whether we like it or not, it is a huge part of everyday life and stress management is a key part of both our physical and psychological well-being. Stress is associated with elevations of a hormone called cortisol; hence cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone.
Despite this negative association cortisol is essential for keeping us alive as it is an important regulator of blood glucose, stopping it from falling by causing glucose stored as glycogen to be released to maintain stable glucose levels during periods where we are not consuming food. Cortisol is also important as it breaks down fat for use as energy, so plays an important role in allowing us to lose unwanted body fat.
These acute, short term, elevations in cortisol required to keep us alive are not a problem and we get quite a pronounced acute response from exercise because we need to provide fuel for both exercise and recovery processes.
The problem with cortisol comes when we have chronic, consistently high levels of cortisol. This can be triggered by emotional or physical stress, of which poor nutrition can also be a cause. This is problematic because of the negative impact it can have on our immune function, testosterone levels and creating a form of insulin resistance, meaning nutrients can’t get into the tissues we want effectively. This potentially leads to muscle loss and high blood glucose levels which can have serious implications for health.
However, even for the busiest, most stressed people, all is not lost. Through regular exercise, proper nutrition, supplementation and stress management techniques we can keep our cortisol under control and stop it having these negative impacts on our bodies. These strategies are exactly what I will be discussing throughout this series of articles on stress management to help you live a healthier and ultimately happier life. With the right approach you can feel good, look good and balance work and family life ensuring that we don’t just survive into our forties but that we thrive in them also.
I am a 41 year old personal trainer based in Poole, Dorset that can offer the knowledge and support to help individuals or small groups with this.