Common health issues caused by stress in Singapore - and how to prevent them

PHOTO: Pexels

Because the little things, over time, do add on.

First, know this: “Stress is a normal part of life,” says Ivena Clarissa, Senior Psychologist in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the National University Hospital.

Especially so for workaholics, helper-less stay-at-home mums and others whose day-to-day stress level may be high. Stress can be like a silent bomb, ticking at every unchecked minute if we leave it as is. Health issues have been known to be caused by unchecked stress levels.

The good news is: As you can identify stress-related symptoms, the sooner you can start managing them. Look out for the following signs and symptoms for:

1. Heart disease

PHOTO: Unsplash

Do you feel like you’re revving high all the time? Can’t seem to calm down? In response to stress, your body releases excess adrenaline and cortisol (i.e., the “stress” hormones).

Over time, these increased and sustained hormone levels force your heart muscle to work harder to pump blood, which can strain your cardiovascular system.

In addition, stress can cause people to eat poorly, smoke and not exercise, all of which contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and subsequent heart disease.

Express your feelings instead of bottling them up so you feel psychologically better. Other ways to reduce stress: improving time management and incorporating enjoyable activities into your days.

Women, in particular, should heed warnings about heart health. Heart disease (and stroke) is the number one killer of women globally, according to the World Heart Federation.

Keep an eye on early warning signs, including blood pressure of 140/90 (hypertension) or total cholesterol of 240 mg/dL or higher.

2. Anxiety and depression

In Singapore, 10 percent of the population suffers from anxiety or depression, according to Singapore General Hospital. These problems manifest as worrying too much, not enjoying life and being physically and mentally exhausted to the point of not functioning normally.

How to know if stress is the cause of your anxiety or depression? Look out for symptoms such as being unable to cope with changing circumstances, feeling overwhelmed, having a fear of being judged or a lack of belief in being good enough.

Talking to a professional about your stressors as well as working on behavioural (action) and cognitive (thinking) solutions can help turn things around. Adequate sleep is a must, as is fostering a supportive environment with friends, family and workmates.

And if the evening news is stressing you out, turn it off. You, after all, are the boss of you.

3. Teeth grinding

A cracked tooth due to bruxism on the distal end of the tooth. The patient had experienced pain when biting and increased sensitivity to cold. 
PHOTO: The Dental Studio

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a stress-related condition that’s on the rise – more than 30 per cent of the population in Australia has it, for example. Symptoms often include: migraines, a tired jaw, sensitive teeth or a stiff neck. Think you may have it? Visit your dentist.

They are able to diagnose bruxism with a detailed interview and an examination of your mouth.

While it can’t be cured, it can be managed, with the use of a mouth splint that repositions the jaw to reduce stress and pain in the TMJ (temporomandibular joint). This can help up to 75 per cent of the issue, studies show.

4. Gastrointestinal issues

When stressed, some of us have certain unhealthy cravings, and indulge in more fried, oily or spicy foods or overeat. This may relieve your stress for a while, but your gut health suffers as a result.

What happens: Your stomach lining becomes irritated, which causes gas and indigestion (think bloating, belching, nausea), which can in turn cause acid reflux – or that burning sensation in your chest (i.e., heartburn) or stomach.

Your gut is your second brain. If your gut is out of sync, you also may experience things like diarrhoea, stomach ache, gastric flu and so on. (Gut bacteria actually consume a brain chemical, GABA, which helps keep you calm!)

Eating plenty of fibrous foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains; try introducing a probiotic, the “friendly” bacteria, into your diet as well.

This article was first published in The Finder.