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The role of stress in health and disability

In previous posts, we’ve discussed how stress can weaken an individual’s immune system. The body’s defense system can handle occasional stressful events. However, the extent to which prolonged stress can damage a person’s health is still being studied. Further research may well establish a connection between stress and chronic pain or diseases.

The starting point is the stress hormone cortisol, which works as an anti-inflammatory agent on swollen tissues, but may also leave a person more vulnerable to infections. A number of accompanying conditions may follow the stress response, including gastric upset, high blood pressure, and interference with normal production of sex hormones. 

Elevated cortisol levels also release extra fats and glucose from cells, which triggers more insulin production from the pancreas. Researchers suspect that long-term exposure to elevated levels may lead to a resistance to insulin, allowing sugar levels to build up. That, unfortunately, is how type 2 diabetes operates.

The good news is that making changes in lifestyle or problem solving can interrupt a person’s habitual stress response. Hopefully, change can be implemented before a condition impairs functioning. Unfortunately, many Americans wait until a crisis has occurred before starting to make changes.

If a health event has left someone unable to work, a consultation with an attorney that specializes in Social Security disability benefits might be a wise move. An attorney will know how to work with doctors to begin documenting symptoms. That evidence will be needed to prove the extent to which a condition has impaired an individual’s ability to work.

Source: Health Central, “Seven Diseases and Conditions Associated with Stress,” Jerry Kennard, Dec. 3, 2013

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