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Starts at $9.98 per contact hour
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4 hours $8.98
8 hours $7.98
12 hours $6.98
20 hours $5.98
30 hours $4.98

The Effects of Stress on Health

1.5 Contact Hours
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to examine the relationship between stress and health; describe the role of stress in the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, drug use, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, sleep disorders, and eating disorders.
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Stress can dramatically affect the body and the mind to the detriment of physical and psychological health. Both acute and chronic stress, the timing and duration of stress, gender, and genetics play a role in the complex relationship between stress and health.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Explain the role of oxidative stress and gender on health.
  • Describe the relationship between stress and the development of cancer.
  • Explain how stress impacts the development of cardiovascular disease.
  • Discuss how stress affects the onset and progress of diabetes and its associated complications.
  • Describe the role of stress in drug use.
  • Explain the relationship between stress and depression.
  • Discuss the relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, sleep disorders and stress.
  • Describe the role of stress in the onset and progress of eating disorders.

Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and the body. Many of us have also heard the expression stress kills. Stress is “a process in which environmental demands tax or exceed the adaptive capacity of an organism, resulting in physiological and biological changes that may place persons at risk for disease” (Contrada, 2011, p. 1). Once disease has taken hold, quality of life is impacted, and complications, including death, may result.

Although stressors can elicit different responses in different individuals depending on “conditioning” or their interactions with the environment, the body’s sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are typically activated during the stress response. This response, or “stress cascade,” allows the body to make the physiological and metabolic changes needed to cope with the demands of a homeostatic challenge (Goeders, 2003).

The hypothalamus, a portion of the brain that directs many vital functions in the body (such as the autonomic nervous system, endocrine function, homeostasis, motor function, and sleep-wake cycle regulation), responds to stress by producing corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH binds to specific receptors on pituitary cells, which produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH is then transported to the adrenal cortex (in the adrenal glands), stimulating the production of cortisol. Cortisol initiates a series of metabolic processes designed to reduce the harmful effects of stress through a negative feedback loop to both the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary. If the feedback is effective, the concentration of CRH and ACTH subside, resulting in a decrease in blood levels of cortisol and, ultimately, a return to homeostasis.

Short-term or minor stressors enable the body to respond in a mode that supports immediate survival. Short-term stress usually has a beginning and an end, and it can be beneficial to an individual. For example, if someone needs to quickly respond to a potential car accident on the highway, a short-term stress response can shut down non-essential body functions (such as digestion) and support essential body functions (like increased blood flow to the brain, allowing for improved reaction time). Once the stressor is removed, the body usually returns to normal, and there are few, if any, health effects (Contrada & Baum, 2011).

Long-term (chronic) stress occurs over an extended period of time (e.g., hours, days, weeks, months, or even years). The stress responses are prolonged, often leading to the development of illness, chronic disease, or death (National Cancer Institute, 2011; Seaward, 2012).

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
  • California Board of Behavioral Sciences
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
  • NCBTMB -National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
  • Florida Board of Massage Therapists


Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Domain of OT

Course Expires:

October 07, 2019

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.