The question is,”Does stress affect your health”? If you have elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and or belly fat you need to read this article.
It will help you understand why taking medication is not the only answer or choice to reducing cholesterol. I will share with you a general understanding of how stress drives up cholesterol, blood pressure and belly fat.
Elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and a big concern for many. The first question to ask is ” where does cholesterol come from”?
Research shows, 15-30% of the total blood cholesterol comes from your diet depending on what you eat.
Over the last 25 years or so there has been a huge public awareness campaign for people to stop eating cholesterol. So we see food packages with a “no cholesterol” label.
And here is a key finding… many have actually reduced their cholesterol intake yet they may still have elevated cholesterol in their blood. How is this happening?
Your body makes cholesterol in the liver and this may account for some 70-85% of the total cholesterol in your blood.
So even if you eat zero cholesterol your body would make all it needs in the liver.
A smart question to ask is “why is my body making cholesterol”?
What is stimulating it to produce it and an even better question would be “how can I slow it down”? What is becoming very clear in the research is that one of the strongest stimuli on the liver to produce cholesterol is… insulin!
Yes that’s the hormone involved in blood sugar management.
Insulin is a very powerful stimulus that tells the body to store energy and produce cholesterol. In the liver it turns on enzymes that produce cholesterol. Insulin also stimulates the liver to make more LDL the “bad” cholesterol.
Now you are probable asking, “what makes my insulin levels go up”?
Great question. One of the biggest components is your diet and specifically your intake of the sugar spiking foods. We call these the High Glycemic foods.
It can also be the excessive intake of carbohydrates which as a society we take in way too many.
Nutrient insufficiencies can also contribute to “insulin resistance”.
This means the insulin receptors that help bring down blood sugar don’t work quite right, so the body compensates and produces more insulin to get the job done, and to drive the sugar into the cells.
There are also other factors at play that alter your physiology to increase insulin.
One very key player is lack of sleep.
Reducing your sleep from 8 hours to just 6 hours a night for 7 days can greatly increase your insulin production. (It will also increase hormones that make you eat more as well, and reduce your satiety so you don’t feel full and keep eating.)
And finally the elevated stress hormone, which is called cortisol, also drives up insulin in turn driving up cholesterol production.
Cortisol elevates blood sugar and insulin reduces it, thus they work in opposition. Chronic stress drives up insulin, which in turn drives up cholesterol production.
It is also interesting to note that lack of sleep also greatly drives up cortisol levels and feeds forward this cycle. Cortisol also directly acts directly on the liver to increase cholesterol production.
The story doesn’t stop here.
It has been know for a long time that elevated blood pressure is part of the “ticking time bomb” of cardiovascular disease.
It is not uncommon for many to have elevated cholesterol and elevated blood pressure and maybe even belly fat at the same time.
Insulin also working through multiple mechanisms contributes to “vascular inflammation” which is what drives up blood pressure (BP). And chronic stress also causes elevated blood pressure directly.
Earlier it was stated that insulin promotes storage of fat.
It does this everywhere on the body including the belly area. The fat tissue around your organs is unique in that it has high levels of cortisol receptors. What this means to you is…
when you are chronically stressed, your fat cells are continually getting the signal to “store fat”.
The external “symptom” is that you gain belly fat. It is a sign that your physiology is out of balance and has been for a while. Simply cutting calories is not the answer to reducing belly fat.
It is vital to understand that belly fat sits in you not on you.
It sits deep within your abdominal area around your organs where it causes damage. It is the most dangerous type of fat.
There is a condition called Metabolic Syndrome which to simplify we could say is kind of like “pre-diabetes”.
Some of the “symptoms” include elevated blood pressure and or cholesterol, and or elevated LDL and low HDL and belly fat. Can you see how these pieces of the puzzle work together to give or take away your health?
Elevated cholesterol is not your problem.
Your out of balance physiology which is driving up cholesterol production is. And that’s most likely due to your lifestyle.
You have complete control over these factors! As a matter of fact, believe it or not, the major governing bodies that recommend treatment to doctors recommend diet and lifestyle before medications!
Now, you could use medications (statin drugs) to bring down your cholesterol.
And they can do that, but they do have some negative effects associated with them, including muscle pain and fatigue.
Or you could work “upstream” and take actions which give you direct control and which directly target the root cause of your elevated cholesterol (and other risk factors!). What’s your choice?
Some key solutions include:
Improving the amount of your sleep to the recommended eight hours per night.
Focus on reducing stress in all the different areas of your life (workplace, home life, life purpose, mission, direction, reducing sources of inflammation, financial stress, etc) .
And also key is reducing your intake of high glycemic carbohydrates.
It is important to reduce intake of “liquid candy” and boost your diet with key nutrients to overcome any shortfalls (multi vitamin-mineral).
Increasing both soluble and insoluble fibers:
This will help to stabilize blood sugar, reduce insulin as well as bind cholesterol before it enters your blood which all bring cholesterol down.
I can also strongly recommend and encourage you to move more.
Can you move more for fun, joy purpose and socialization? Of course you can.
Exercise helps tire one out so we sleep better. It works better than any medication to improve insulin resistance and lower insulin levels.
It also helps “burn” stress and fat and it gives our bodies muscle tone which is sexy! NICE. We did it as kids and we can do it as adults.
I hope this article serves you well and shows you how stress drives up your cholesterol, BP and belly fat. I also hope it empowers you to take control of your health.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions.
10 thoughts on “Does Stress Affect Your Health?”
Stress definitely affect my health. I find that when I am stressed out, I usually get anxiety, panic attack (I live in NYC), sleeplessness, and binge drinking (if you know what I mean).
I did my research on Intermittent Fasting, by fasting you limit your intake of food which will lower the insulin resistance that lead us to the cholesterol. Of course, just by fasting alone cannot cure all the stress but one thing for sure, I can sleep better at night. (No more heart burn) I also do cardio 30 mins a day, if I cannot I either meditate or go to yoga class with a friend.
Ultimately, it is best to stop stressing out about something that you cannot control, but if you cannot, start by eating better and sleep more will help tremendously, just like you mentioned.
Stress is a part of our life. I think we all need some practice how how to deal with it. 😊
I am really pleased to see Nuttanee that you are not letting stress overrun you but are taking steps to try to help you with it.
You are right about stress being a part of everyone’s life in some degree or another. And yes, learning how to minimize it is the key. I wish you all the best.
Hi Roland! This is an outstanding remark and I knew anything about it: That 70 to 85% of the total cholesterol in our blood is produced by our liver. So, it’s important to reduce our cholesterol intake, but it’s definitely not enough.
There is always need of a proper balance. Diet is important, but I believe lifestyle could be even more important. Thank you very much for this very helpful post!
I’m glad that you found the post helpful Henry. Thanks also for your good contributions as always.
I can attest that stress definitely affects your health. To be effective, you need to be a well rounded individual, that means, physical fitness as well as mental fitness. People like to try to take care of other people without looking after themselves.
It makes me think of flight attendants on in airplane. The first thing they say is for you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then you can assist others. How can you assist someone if you’re passed out?
It’s the same thing in life, find out whats stressing you out, do your best to deal with it, take a vacation if possible and then come back strong.
Great article by the way.
Thank you for your kind words and powerful analogy Ibrahim.
You are very right about that, but is it not great that in this day and age it is possible to even help those on the other side of the world who we have never met or never ever will?
I did not know sleep and stress could impact cholesterol levels. I grew up in a health conscious community, so remember that lack of sleep and stress will contribute to a decline in health. Stay active in the outdoors, eat your fruits and veggies, chill out, this is a good prescription. Too many people just want a pill rather than changing behavior.
Thank you Troy. I am encouraged that you seem to exhibit the right kind of approach to life that will aid you in having the good health you deserve.
So I’ve now read your article three times and I’m still working to fully understand it. Not the main point, as you have made that excellently. We need to take control of our lifestyles as you rightly say. I think it’s important for us all to take this more seriously than we do. I don’t think that’s necessarily an individual problem moreover one of ‘misinformation’ over the years, that has made people’s outlook one of ‘helplessness’ so they may as well just eat what they enjoy and live a sedentary lifestyle. There has been a positive trend in the awareness of the causes of ‘Type 2’ diabetes over the last ten years or more. No longer is it looked upon as something only the elderly or those in the last trimester of pregnancy are susceptible to. I have a vested interest in your subject matter as my wife has ‘Type One’ diabetes and has also had cardiovascular issues. Ironically her cholesterol levels are normal yet she was prescribed ‘statins’. Unfortunately she was one of those who suffered your aforementioned ‘side-effects’ so came off them as soon as we joined the dots, as it were. Your article is a positive reminder, with relevant solutions. Educate, not medicate, might be a good ‘tagline’ for us all.
I truly appreciate all of your comments and observations and find them all valuable. Thank you. In particular I like your comment “educate, not medicate might be a good ‘tagline’ for all of us. In fact following a minor heart attack way back in 1995 I was put on statin drugs and had many adverse effects so got off them as soon as possible.
But I learned my lesson. I am proud to say that even though, like most seniors, I have faced my fair share of health challenges ( I will soon be 83), I have been able to fight off all of my doctor’s prescriptions with natural means and can at the moment count myself “drug free) !