This week, we discussed stress and its physiological effects on the body. I found this really cool article from Huffington Post that talks about 10 effects that stress has on your body. In the movie we watched, Robert Sapolsky showed us how stress from social factors takes a huge toll on your physical being. Stress can do everything from causing us to develop colds or fevers to exposing our bodies to more chronic illnesses such as heart disease or even cancer. The article, written by Amanda Chan, gives some of the scariest ways that stress affects our bodies.
There were a couple of effects that Chan names that interested me. One of the effects is that stress can literally shrink your brain. How this happens is that stress will reduce the gray matter in our brains, particularly in regions that are tied to emotion and physiological functions. This can cause psychiatric problems for people later in life.
Another effect that surprised me was that stress can age kids prematurely. This is incredibly sad. Kids that are bullied or exposed to acts of violence were found to have shorter telomeres. Sapolsky even discussed telomeres in the movie we watched. Telomeres are regions of DNA at the end of a chromosome that protects the end of a chromosome from deteriorating. Telomeres allow cells to divide, but when they get shorter, the cell can’t divide and it basically dies off. The process of telomeres getting shorter is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death.