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Monday, June 14, 2021

Ask Ms. Scientist: chronic stress and staying warm

Dear Ms. Scientist,

How does stress work?

- Jenna H.

Most of the stress students likely suffer from is chronic, long-term stress, as opposed to acute, short-term stress. Chronic stress is caused by partaking in sustained activities. Throughout such, the body constantly activates the stress response. This response begins when a threat is perceived and nerve signals send the threat to the brain, specifically the amygdala. The amygdala, which regulates motivation and emotion, then sends the threat to the hypothalamus, the portion of the brain that controls hormone production. Adrenaline is released with help from the nervous system, while the hypothalamus triggers a sequence of hormones that eventually produces cortisol. Many of these hormones then travel through the body via blood. Cortisol then latches onto the cells of tissues and organs. These hormones boost your blood sugar, make your heart beat faster and may trigger the fight-or-flight response. Since your body is unable to reset and respond to a continual stress cycle, those under chronic stress are more susceptible to illnesses and other immune system weaknesses. Manage your stress well to optimize your health!

Dear Ms. Scientist,

Can you give me some tips on how to stay warm?

- Mitchell O.

First off, the common cold and other illnesses are not caused by the cold weather! They are caused by viruses. So you really should not blame the outdoors for your runny nose. Now, as for tips for staying warm this coming winter, here’s a few. Contrary to popular belief, hot drinks may actually make you cooler as they may trigger sweating. However, you should drink lots of water. Staying hydrated will help you retain body heat. But make sure it is water you are drinking and not alcohol, as alcohol will lower your core body temperature. Keeping your torso warm will, consequently, keep your fingers and toes warm as well. Also, the “you lose the most heat through your head” idea isn’t entirely true; you only lose 7 to 10 percent of your body heat through your head, and the concern lies not in the fact that it is your head, but rather that your skin is exposed. So opt for a big scarf covering your face if you can’t find a hat. Lastly, some studies suggest, although have not been proven, that wearing white may help keep you warmer on colder days. Wearing a white jacket may reflect body heat and therefore trap it inside your jacket closest to your body. So grab your mittens and stay warm this winter!

Ask Ms. Scientist is written by Julie Spitzer. If you have a burning science question you want her to answer, email it to science@dailycardinal.com.

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