Friday, April 05, 2013

Learning How to Deal with Stress Important to our Health Says Extension Specialist

Contact: Christeena Haynes, nutrition and health education specialist
Tel: (417) 345-7551

The human body was designed to respond to stressful situations in order to protect us from danger. However, when this response is constantly turned on from continued stress, it can lead to health problems.

“Our lives can be very stressful, and often times we have learned to live with these feelings, so we may not even realize how much it is affecting us,” said Christeena Haynes, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

When a human body feels threatened, the hypothalamus, located at the base of our brain, triggers an alarm system in the body known as the “fight-or-flight reaction.” That causes a sudden increase of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline speeds up your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, and increases energy supplies. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, raises your blood sugar and causes your brain to use more glucose, and prepares the body to repair tissues.

“These things are intended to help you during threatening situations. Unfortunately, there are some negative effects related to cortisol as well. The hormone can lower your immune system and prevent your digestive system and reproductive system from working appropriately,” said Haynes.

The release of hormones also affects a person’s mood, motivation and fear. Typically, once a person no longer feels threatened, these responses will stop and your body will return to normal.

“When you are under a constant feeling of stress, this fight-or flight response never shuts down, which can lead to a variety of problems, including sleep disturbances, memory impairment, skin problems, depression, digestive troubles, obesity, and even heart disease,” said Haynes.

Because daily stress in our lives can take its toll on our bodies, Haynes says it is important to learn how to deal with stress in healthy ways.

“Make sure you have a good foundation by eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising, and getting adequate sleep. Build healthy relationships with family and friends. Use relaxation techniques and make time for yourself,” said Haynes.

For more information on nutrition, go online to or contact one of the nutrition and health specialists working in the Ozarks: Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Greene County, (417) 881-8909; or Cammie Younger in Texas County, (417) 967-4545


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