Health One Family Medicine

The Impact Of Stress On A Cellular Level

Stress is a common part of our lives these days. We know it is bad, but that does not stop us from worrying about the smallest of things. Many studies have linked the prevalence of stress to many serious health conditions. For instance, stress acts as a precursor to obesity, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other medical conditions. Have you ever wondered why? You see, the impact of stress goes much deeper and can interfere with how our cells function.  Let us take a look at the impact of stress on a cellular level.

It Damages Our Mitochondria

When you experience stress, it activates a fight-or-flight response in your body. While this response is crucial to human survival in life-threatening conditions, experiencing it every day due to stress can be detrimental. As per research, this response can damage the mitochondria in your cells. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.  This is particularly common for cells in the hippocampus and cortex.

When the mitochondria are damaged, it also causes cellular DNA to spill into the rest of the cell. This DNA eventually enters the bloodstream, where it acts similarly to a hormone. If sufficient amounts of mitochondrial DNA enter the bloodstream, it can elevate sugar levels. It can also cause insulin resistance, hypertension, and type II diabetes.

It Creates Myelin-Producing Cells

Chronic stress can also lead to many long-term changes in your brain. This is because stress results in the production of myelin-producing cells. Our brain is made up of neurons, axons, and support cells. Axons are surrounded by a white sheath called myelin (white matter). This plays an important role in the transfer of electrical signals through the brain for the communication of information.

However, if you constantly feel stressed out, it can lead to an overproduction of myelin. This can bring about permanent changes to the brain’s structure. This can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. For example, many brain abnormalities have been linked to imbalances in the white matter and gray matter of the brain. Gray matter includes your neurons and support cells. This imbalance can make your brain more vulnerable to mental diseases. As a result, those who suffer from chronic stress are more likely to develop anxiety and mood disorders.

It Can Alter Your DNA

This is another significant impact of stress on a cellular level. As per research, environmental stress can bring about alterations in the genetic material within the nuclei of the cell. For example, one response to stress is that your fat-manufacturing genes become more active. This is a protective response to stress. However, in the long term, it leads to obesity and other related diseases. These effects were showcased in a study conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as well. The study showed that when a male mouse was given a low-protein diet. This lack of food availability altered its genetic material and led to increased production of fat. These genes were also inherited by their offspring, which made them more prone to obesity.

Let’s Sum It Up

Stress can have a very negative effect on your cells. It can:

  • Damage your mitochondria
  • Lead to the overproduction of myelin in your brain
  • Bring about changes in your genetic material

If you suffer from chronic stress, we suggest you seek medical help immediately. If you require further advice on the impact of stress on a cellular level, book an appointment with a physician at Health One Family Medicine.

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