According to recent studies, people and Americans in particular, are more stressed than ever before, with young adults fairing the worst of all. Being stressed affects your ability to function effectively on a day-to-day basis, and regular stress can also exacerbate any preexisting medical conditions that may be present. Chronic and long-term stress can lead to a range of issues from which it may have long term or even permanent consequences.

Currently, in the United States, 3 out of 4 visits to doctors are for stress-related conditions. And the effect is being felt by our economy too, with stress related medical treatment along with the loss of productivity caused by stress currently tagged at a combined figure of over $300 Billion dollars in the last year.

Stress, like other psychological conditions such as depression, can be difficult to diagnose. Many patients suffering from chronic stress-related issues are often not even aware that their high-stress levels are to blame for their conditions.

Some of the major ways that elevated stress levels can impact your health are listed below. If you find that you are suffering from similar problems, you may want to consult an expert for advice and do what you can to try and help you relax more.

Stress can lead to insomnia

Stress can lead to frequent sleeping problems and prolonged bouts of insomnia. Chronic stress has been shown to lead to insomnia in numerous patients. As people are so caught up with problems or concerns that are causing them anxiety, their bodies find it harder to rest and relax for a healthy period of time.

You'll start craving fat and sugar

Your body releases greater amounts of a hormone named cortisol when you are stressed. Cortisol is linked to enhanced cravings for sugar and fat. This is why certain people 'stress eat' when they are under a lot of pressure, with ice cream or any sweet being a favorite.

Chronic stress is linked to heart attacks

The full relationship between stress and heart attacks is still unclear, but we know that your body pumps blood a lot faster when you are under stress. Stress causes your blood pressure to rise and your blood vessels to constrict in order to get more oxygen to your brain. Chronic stress leads to the body releasing excess amounts of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol over time, which play a role in heart diseases.

Headaches and migraines are common side effects

Stress has an impact on the body's central nervous system (CNS) which deals with your 'fight or flight' response. Chronic stress messes up the CNS's perception, and it causes hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to go haywire. This diminishes the CNS's ability to restore normal functions after dealing with a perceived threat. This worsens conditions such as muscle tension and headaches, and it can lead to regular bouts of headaches and migraines.

Possible early onset of diabetes and other digestion-related diseases

Your liver pumps out a greater amount of glucose (blood sugar) when you are stressed to give you more energy. If your body doesn't use the glucose for anything, it will reabsorb it. For chronically stressed individuals, the body may not be able to deal with reabsorption over a long period, and it could lead to type 2 diabetes. All stress-related factors such as increased heart rate and haywire hormones can affect the digestive system.

These are some of the major ways that prolonged high stress levels can pose major long-term health risks. Thankfully, there are things you can do that will help you relax. Meditating, enjoying a massage, exercising and even just making sure you get enough rest are all great ways to help keep your stress levels in check, make you more productive and probably add years to your life as well.