Stress causes the body to enter the "fight or flight" mode of emergency response. During this mode the adrenal gland secretes its stress hormones: adrenaline and Cortisol. These hormones also cause an increase in cholesterol production. You may have thought that cholesterol is an evil substance, but the body needs cholesterol for nerve transmission. In stressful situations, we produce cholesterol to help the body handle the emergency, but if we are under constant or frequent stress, we are raising our cholesterol levels beyond what the body requires for normal function. For years we have heard of the "type-A" person - a fast-paced, detail oriented, very stressful perfectionist. We have also heard that people with this personality type are more prone to heart attacks. We know that stress is a strain on our cardiac system, but somehow we think that the risk applies to others and not to us.
Another reason that stress may contribute to higher cholesterol levels is that our behavior changes when we are under stress. We indulge in more unhealthful lifestyles in an attempt to counteract the stress. Smoking, alcohol abuse, and high carbohydrate consumption are examples of misguided attempts at handling pressure. These activities may give us a temporary emotional fix, but they are also precursors to elevated cholesterol levels.
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