Stress, 4 scary facts

We love doing things that make us a bit scared. And at Halloween we can really indulge, whether it’s paying to be scared out of our wits as actors dressed as zombies and vampires chase us through dark woods, or curling up to watch our favourite horror movie on the TV, we’re craving that rush of adrenaline and fear. But this Halloween, there’s something scarier than Freddy Kruger, Hannibal Lecter and Michael Myers put together- and that’s what stress can do to your body. Here are 4 scary facts about stress

1. The stress of your job could give you heart disease

Heart disease is the biggest killer in the US, causing 1 in 4 deaths, and the most common type is coronary heart disease. The scary thing is though, that job stress has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. A lot of it seems to be down to the relationship between the effort you put in and the rewards you get. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that if you put high effort into your job but get low rewards in terms of pay and other benefits, the risk of coronary heart disease is three times higher.

2. Stress can cause your blood pressure to rocket

As you hide behind your bucket of popcorn as Michael Myers makes his move in the Halloween movie and you scream for the heroine to run, your body is feeling stressed and gives you a burst of hormones in response to the stress. It’s almost as if it’s you up there on the screen. Your heart is beating faster, you are poised and alert. Inside, your blood vessels narrow meaning your blood pressure can increase. Of course, the odd scary movie now and again shouldn’t be harmful, but if you’re regularly experiencing negative stress then this can affect your blood pressure too.

3. If you’re often stressed, you could have high cholesterol

One of the best things about Halloween has to be all of the yummy treats around. But if you’re holding back on the sweet stuff to look after your cholesterol levels, you should know that high cholesterol can also be triggered by the hormones caused by stress like cortisol. And because cholesterol is fat in the blood not fat on the outer body, it can be a silent killer.

4. Stress can make other parts of your system less effective

Imagine, you’re locked in a haunted house and Kruger and his buddies are on your tail. Our bodies are amazing, wonderful things but they are also reactive. The adrenaline that keeps you going and gets you out of the clutches of the horror movie greats also stops other parts of your body from working as effectively. That’s fine for a one off, but if say you’re going through a very stressful home-life then this stress can become chronic meaning that less attention is being paid to other parts of your system like your reproductive system, and if your oestrogen and progesterone levels dip then periods can become more irregular or even stop.