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Thursday, February 25, 2010

What is the role of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (grouping) in stress?

The HPA axis is a grouping of responses to stress by the brain and the pituitary and adrenal glands. First, the hypothalamus (a central part of the brain) releases a compound called corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF), which was discovered in 1981. The CRF then travels to the pituitary gland, where it triggers the release of a hormone, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). ACTH is released into the bloodstream and causes the cortex of the adrenal gland to release the stress hormones, particularly cortisol, which is a corticosteroid hormone. Cortisol increases the availability of the body's fuel supply (carbohydrate, fat, and glucose), which is needed to respond to stress. However, if cortisol levels remain elevated for too long, then muscle breaks down, there is a decreased inflammatory response, and suppression of the immune (defense) system occurs.

Because they suppress the immune system, corticosteroids in measured doses are used to treat many illnesses that are characterized by inflammation or an overactive immune system, such as asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. For the same reason, they are used to help reduce the chances that our body will immunologically reject a transplanted organ. Corticosteroids also can cause fluid retention and high blood pressure. Therefore, it is critical that the response to corticosteroids be carefully controlled (modulated). This control usually is accomplished by a feedback mechanism in which increased cortisol levels feeding back to the hypothalamus and pituitary turn off production of ACTH. In addition, extremely high levels of cortisol can cause mental changes, including depression and psychosis, which disappear when the levels return to normal.

(click title link to learn more...only works from blog post)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stress Symptoms : Effects on your Body, Feelings and Behavior

Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent forgetfulness or your decreased productivity at work. But sometimes stress is to blame. Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. When you recognize common stress symptoms, you can take steps to manage them.

Of course, other potentially serious health problems also can cause some of these symptoms. If you're not sure if stress is the cause or if you've taken steps to control your stress but symptoms continue, see your doctor. Also, if you have chest pain, especially if it occurs during physical activity or is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea or pain radiating into your shoulder and arm, get emergency help immediately. These signs and symptoms may indicate a heart attack and not simply stress symptoms.

Effects of stress ...
... On your body ... On your thoughts and feelings ... On your behavior

■Headache
■Back pain
■Chest pain
■Heart disease
■Heart palpitations
■High blood pressure
■Decreased immunity
■Stomach upset
■Sleep problems
■Anxiety
■Restlessness
■Worrying
■Irritability
■Depression
■Sadness
■Anger
■Feeling insecure
■Lack of focus
■Burnout
■Forgetfulness
■Overeating
■Undereating
■Angry outbursts
■Drug or alcohol abuse
■Increased smoking
■Social withdrawal
■Crying spells
■Relationship conflicts

If you do have stress symptoms, taking steps to manage your stress can have numerous health benefits. (click title to learn more)