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The impact of stress on health

July 11, 2024
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An older woman outside taking deep breaths

We all know the classic signs of stress – our heart beats faster, our muscles tense, our breathing quickens, and we start to sweat. Stress is a universal human reaction. It comes from a variety of sources – physical, mental, and societal. External factors beyond our control, such as housing and food insecurity, can contribute to stress.

When we encounter a stressful situation, our body enters fight-or-flight mode. When this happens, our hearts and lungs speed up and pump adrenaline into our blood.

Chronic stress may lead to serious physical and mental health conditions. Over time, stress can rewire the brain and lead to long-term mental health challenges. These may include anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Many people don’t realize that stress can lead to a wide variety of medical issues as well. These can include:

If not managed well, chronic stress can even put us at risk for insulin resistance, heart attacks, and dementia.

Stress may impact our daily habits too. For example, stress may cause many of us to eat more or to lose our appetites or spend more. We may even increase our consumption of drugs or alcohol.

A silent struggle

Despite the wide-reaching impacts of stress, many of us suffer in silence. Last year, 24% of adults in the U.S. ranked their stress level at least an 8 out of 10. And 62% of adults reported that they do not want to talk about their stress out of concern for burdening others.

Unfortunately, talking about it is the first step toward stress management. Stress is personal, and it is often driven by our external environments. This most often impacts more vulnerable communities.

The CCA clinical care team works with our members to better understand their stress levels. Our members deal with many stressors on a daily basis. These may include:

Our members’ caregivers also deal with the stress of ensuring their loved ones are safe and healthy as they age at home or in their communities.  

Managing your stress

There is no simple treatment or cure for stress. To support our members and their caregivers, we first help them recognize their stress. We then provide guidance and coping skills for managing their symptoms. We may also connect them to providers and programs to help address the root causes of their stress. These may be food banks, housing and utility services, and other programs.

This approach to stress management is holistic. It can help our members take action to improve their quality of life. This, in turn, safeguards their future health and well-being.

If you’re experiencing stress, speak with your provider to get the help you need. CCA members may also call CCA Member Services or speak to a member of their care team.

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