8 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Men’s Health

According to the American Psychological Association, two of the most common sources of stress include “work” and “money.”

The more studies that are undertaken on the effects of stress, the more we learn that stress is more serious than previously believed.

Before you brush off stress as a normal part of life, here are the surprising and  dangerous ways stress affects men’s health and wellbeing.

Insomnia

Stress causes hyperarousal, a state where those affected don’t feel tired and can have problems falling or staying asleep.

Although stressful events often lead to short periods of sleeplessness, men who are exposed to long-term chronic stress are susceptible to insomnia and sleep disorders.

Hair Loss

Although reports are still inconclusive, stress is also thought to trigger hair loss and the condition known as alopecia areata.

Anxiety and stress also contribute to the disorder called trichotillomania, where those affected feel an irresistible urge to pull out their hair.

Increased Belly Fat

In addition to poor dieting choices, stress can make men put on more pounds along their midsection owing to cortisol, the stress hormone.

Stress causes the suppression of hormones and a rise in the level of insulin, which are major causes of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Stress can also lead to muscle mass loss since it blocks protein intake by muscle tissue.

Memory Loss

Stress precipitates the release of the fight-or-flight hormone which gets the body ready for action and is instrumental in protecting individuals from danger. When faced with a dangerous situation, the hypothalamus in the brain sends triggers to the adrenals through the nerves. The adrenals, in turn, release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which, among other things, raises your blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Although the release of cortisol is fine if you need to outrun an armed attacker, the unnecessary release of cortisol (caused by stress) can be harmful if it continues over an extended period. Such increased levels of cortisol in the body will interfere with one’s ability to form new memories and inhibit the effective functioning of neurotransmitters, making it hard to retrieve memories or think straight.

Heart Disease

Studies by the U.S Department of Agriculture found that men with high-stress jobs usually eat more than those in low-stress occupations. This is because they delay regular meals and end up eating more than necessary due to the longer gap in between meals.

Aside from skipping meals, stress also makes men eat unhealthy foods and get less sleep, all of which contribute to increased blood pressure, making them vulnerable to infections, strokes, and heart attacks.

Stress studies undertaken by the American Journal of Cardiology also pointed to stress as one of the factors that can increase the risk of coronary heart disease in men. Stress increases inflammation which causes cholesterol particles to attach themselves to the walls of the blood vessels.

Poor Decisions

Making clear decisions based on evidence or prior knowledge is important for both career and personal success. Stress, however, impacts the ability of men to make sound judgment calls.

Men who are going through tough times, having a personal or domestic crisis, or overworking themselves are more likely to make poor decisions and have reduced mental health. They may engage in behaviors such as excess consumption of alcohol, use of illicit drugs, or dangerous sexual entanglements to relieve the symptoms of stress.

Low Sperm Count

If you’re trying to have a baby, stress can be a big problem. Studies have shown that those men who are experiencing extreme stress can have a markedly lower sperm count than those who are more relaxed.

Even if you are able to procreate, your children may be be affected by your stress levels. Stress has been shown to mutate genes which can then be passed along to your offspring. These mutated genes can result in your children’s reduced ability to deal with stress and can also contribute to the development of neuropsychiatric diseases.

Early Death

Analysis of over 20 million people who lost their jobs showed that major life events (which precipitate stress) can be deadly. Men who are in the early or middle stages of their careers were more likely to die as a result of stress-induced ailments from job loss than women or men in the later part of their careers.

Other major life events such as the death of a loved one, personal illness, natural disasters, and marital separation have serious mental and physical consequences and can increase the incidence of heart disease in affected people.

These stressors also lead to major depression and anxiety, which in turn leads to behaviors such as physical inactivity and substance abuse that exacerbates the problem. Stress can also place affected men at risk of suicidal thoughts.

Whether you’re experiencing it at work, at home, or both — stress is a big deal. When you realize all the negative effects of stress on your physical and mental health, you should be convinced that treating your stress now is beneficial for you and those you love.