We all know that the common risk factors for a heart attack are tobacco use, obesity, diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels! But, a very important component overlooked in cardiovascular disease is 'stress'. In fact, studies have shown that most persons under 50 who have their first heart attack do not even have any of the above physical risk factors!
That's something to think about isn't it? OK... I'll add another interesting snippet of information!
It is estimated that as much as 70 - 80% of all visits to physicians offices are for stress related problems!
Does this sound a little 'over the top'? If you research the subject of stress you will understand how it is a major cause of illness and a significant contributor to premature aging. Unfortunately I can't even begin in a short article like this to try and convey all the things that you should know about how stress can slowly but sure destroy your health.
But I will try to give you the basics.
Good and bad stress...
The first thing to appreciate is that stress of the right type and in the right amount can be beneficial. For example, short periods of stress such as our cave ancestors experienced in times of danger when adrenalin and cortisol is pumped into the body followed by a normalization period can be beneficial! Your body is designed to cope with this type of stress.
However, the type of stress experienced in modern day living is far different to our cave dwelling ancestors. Instead of being a high threat short duration type of stress, the stress that most of us are exposed to in modern day living is low threat and long duration. This is the direct opposite to what our bodies are designed for.
This type of stress affects every system in your body, including your immune system, cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, and central nervous systems.
The demands placed on your bodily systems causes essential nutrients to be depleted rapidly causing serious nutrient deficiencies.
Some researchers believe that 'stress' has reached epidemic levels in the western world and affects both young and old. It's amazing the number of people who are 'under constant stress' or 'stressed out'! One poll of American executives indicated that around half of the people polled suffered from excessive stress!
The degree that stress contributes to the development of disease is greatly under appreciated by mainstream medicine and individuals alike. The most common danger from stress is the serious damage it can do to your immune system. This is brought about by the over activation of the sympathetic part of your autonomic nervous system. This is the part which controls the 'fight or flight' response and initiates the release of cortisol and adrenaline.
A small amount of these stress hormones are necessary in times of danger and can result in temporary 'superhuman' achievements. But... on a prolonged basis they will imbalance your body, by also affecting your digestive system, the liver and of course your cardiovascular system.
For example, there are links between stress and the very common leaky gut syndrome.
The connection between stress and disease can be easily understood if you reflect back on times when you have had an emotional upset for whatever reason and for hours afterwards have felt quite ill. This effect is very obvious in instances when you are exposed to high level stress. It is also the least dangerous form because you are aware of the impact it is having on your body and you will hopefully deal with the cause.
The dangerous type is the constant low level stress which you are not consciously aware of and is 'eating' away at you day by day. Each day it continues you are setting yourself up for a future health problem and accelerating your aging.
What should you do?
First of all recognize that if you have any particular health issues that these may be a manifestation of constant low level stress.
If you think that this is a possibility then try to identify the cause of that stress and consider ways of reducing or eliminating it. When considering causes of stress don't naturally assume that if you are working long hours that this is the cause! It may or may not be!
I'll explain! Working hard and for long hours does not necessarily equate to stress. For example, I, like many other people generally work a 70 hour week... but, I never get stressed! Why? Because I love what I do! This is why I don't mind giving up a Saturday morning in Thailand (where I am at the moment) so I can write this newsletter. So, even if you are working hard and long it doesn't necessarily equate to being stressful, so long as you enjoy doing what you are doing and derive some real satisfaction from it.
On the other hand someone who is working for just 35 hours a week may be under constant stress, because every hour of it is a chore and they hate doing what they are doing.
Did you know that more heart attacks occur at 9.00am on Monday morning than any other time? Ties in... doesn't it?
So, the moral is?
If you are working in a job that you hate or have other constant levels of stress in your life... face the causes and do what you can to modify your lifestyle to eliminate them.