The body’s response to stress occurs when exposed to external or internal stimuli.
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Stress is essentially a complex of physiologically determined reactions of the body, which means that they can be studied in the laboratory. Founder of the online laboratory Valery Savanovich tell you how to do it
The body’s reactions to stress occur when exposed to external or internal stimuli (stressors). They disrupt the normal functioning of mental and physiological processes, and a complex of stress reactions allows the body to adapt to the action of stressors. And everything that is physiologically conditioned can be investigated by the methods of modern laboratory diagnostics, which will be discussed Valery Savanovichfounder and owner of an online medical laboratory.
STRESS ACUTE AND PROTRACTED
One of the dominant theories of stress today was developed by the Canadian endocrinologist and pathologist Hans Selye. He identified three stages in the development of stress:
Stages 1 and 2 are acute stress, when the body mobilizes all the forces and resources to cope with the action of aggressive external factors. These stages are the most important evolutionary mechanism necessary for the survival of our biological species, when you need to quickly switch the body into “emergency mode: fight or flight.
However, if the stress is prolonged, then it goes into phase 3 – exhaustion. The body’s resources are not infinite, they quickly run out if the action of stressors does not stop. That’s when we overtake the effects of prolonged stress.
Founder of the online laboratory Valery Savanovich
WHY STRESS HORMONES HARM
– The keys that trigger the stress response are catecholamines and glucocorticosteroids, hormones produced by the adrenal glands, better known as cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine, says Valery Savanovich. They are often referred to as stress hormones. In acute stress, they have a positive effect: increase heart rate and respiratory movements, increase blood pressure, blood clotting and blood sugar levels (but this is a beneficial hyperglycemia, which is needed to provide the body with energy to deal with stressors). But at the same time, there is a slowdown in processes that are not needed for survival right now – the work of the immune, reproductive, digestive, and hormonal systems.
But all this is good for a short distance, during a period of acute stress. When it becomes protracted, pathological consequences from exposure to stress hormones appear. Here are just a few of them:
1. Suppression of the immune system: increased vulnerability to viruses and infections, we begin to get sick more often.
2. Inflammatory processes are triggered, ulcers may begin to form on the gastric mucosa.
3. The production of thyroid hormones is disrupted, which can lead to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
4. Persistent hyperglycemia develops, that is, increased blood sugar, and this can cause insulin resistance, in fact, prediabetes.
5. Hyperlipidemia may also appear – an increase in the level of lipids or lipoproteins in the blood often leads to the development of cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis.
6. Hypercoagulability – increased blood clotting, which can cause blood clots in the vessels.
7. A persistent increase in blood pressure causes the risks of hypertension.
WHAT TESTS REVEAL STRESS
– With any kind of stress (acute or chronic), you can take tests for the concentration of adrenal hormones in the blood, – says Valery Savanovich. – However, catecholamines quickly disappear from the blood, and the concentration of cortisol in the stage of exhaustion may decrease. In my opinion, it is better to take an analysis for cortisol in saliva – such a study allows us to assess the concentration of its biologically active free form. And of course, you don’t have to pierce a vein. This analysis will show the presence of acute stress.
In chronic stress, doctors will connect other tests:
* First, the study of the level of glucose in the serum and (or) blood plasma and glycated hemoglobin. They are needed to detect persistent hyperglycemia and, therefore, to detect the risks of diabetes mellitus.
* Secondly, a lipid profile is used – a comprehensive analysis of fat metabolism. This study helps to identify atherogenic changes (that is, leading to atherosclerosis – the formation of plaques on the walls of blood vessels).
* Thirdly, a coagulogram is an analysis of the state of the blood and the detection of increased clotting, which is important for preventing thrombosis.
* Fourthly, hormones are being studied – TSH and thyroid hormones, as well as sex hormones. In women, chronic stress can cause progesterone levels to drop.
All these are analyzes specifically for a situation where prolonged stress has led to negative health consequences and it is necessary to deal with them already. The best advice is to avoid stress, which, alas, is not yet feasible in the current conditions. However, having received test data, doctors will help to cope with the effects of stress and maintain health.