HOW WORRY AFFECTS YOUR BODY

We all worry from time to time, but if you can’t shake it after a few weeks or it starts to get in the way of your normal work or home life, talk to your doctor. It can take a toll on your health and might be linked to an anxiety disorder. Therapy, drugs, and other strategies can help.

Blood Sugar

neurons illustration

Nervous System

This messaging network is made up of your brain, spinal cord, nerves, and special cells called neurons. Worrying too much can trigger it to release “stress hormones” that speed up your heart rate and breathing, raise your blood sugar, and send more blood to your arms and legs. Over time, this can affect your heart, blood vessels, muscles, and other systems

neck massage

Muscles

When you’re troubled about something, the muscles in your shoulder and neck can tense up, and that can lead to migraines or tension headaches. Massage or relaxation techniques, like deep breathing and yoga, may help.

man using inhaler

Breathing

If you’re worried a lot, you might breathe more deeply or more often without realizing it. While this usually isn’t a big deal, it can be serious if you already have breathing problems linked to asthma, lung disease, or other conditions. 

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Heart

If it sticks around long enough, something as small as a nagging concern in the back of your mind can affect your heart. It can make you more likely to have high blood pressure, a heart attack, or a stroke. Higher levels of anxiety can trigger those stress hormones that make your heart beat faster and harder. If that happens over and over, your blood vessels may get inflamed, which can lead to hardened artery walls, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and other problems. 

glucose test

Blood Sugar

When you’re worried about something, stress hormones also give you a burst of fuel (in the form of blood sugar). This can be a good thing if you need to run from danger, but what happens if you don’t use that fuel? Your body normally stores it to use later. But sometimes, if you’re overweight or have diabetes, for example, your blood sugar can stay too high for too long. This can lead to heart disease, strokes, or kidney disease.

sick woman using computer

Immune System

If your body is affected by the physical effects of worry, it may not fight germs as well. Just thinking about things that made you angry or depressed in the past can take a toll. It can make it harder for you to fend off the flu, herpes, shingles, and other viruses. 


Worry can tear you out and distract you so you’re less interested in sex. Over the long term, it can lower a man’s levels of the sex hormone testosterone. That can affect sperm development and slow or stop his body’s normal response when he wants to have sex. For women who have gone through menopause, it can make hot flashes and sleep issues worse.


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