Stress and control are risk factors for periodontal disease and cardiovascular diseases. Stress is the body’s reaction to external forces or events that cause physical, emotional or mental tension. When we feel stressed, adrenaline and stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) are released to prepare the body for the “fight-or-flight” response.
While stress is a normal part of life, excessive stress can lead to health problems and lifestyle behavioural changes (e.g., taking up or increasing smoking, increasing alcohol intake, changing dietary habits, becoming physically inactive, neglecting oral and personal hygiene) which further increase health risks.
How we react to stress depends to a large extent on our personality type. Studies have shown, however, that even people with the most easy-going and adaptable personalities can suffer from stress if they lack a sense of control over aspects of their daily lives.
Chronic stress (e.g., low social support, low socioeconomic status, work stress, marital stress, caregiver strain) is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease.
Research suggests that chronic stress speeds up the process of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries and that the stress hormone cortisol plays a role in increased damage to the gums and gum disease. Cortisol also acts to suppress the immune system, allowing bacteria to flourish in the mouth.
Exercise and stress management techniques provide us with tools to cope with the anxieties in our lives.
Mental Health Ireland has shared five simple actions we can all take to protect our mental health and maintain positive wellbeing during uncertain and challenging times.