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Stress and Your Health | MyLifeStages
This post begins our series on stress and your health, presented by Ronesh Sinha, M.D.  Dr. Sinha has a particular focus on improving the health of the South Asian population, particularly those working in sedentary, high-pressure occupations.
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Pinterest Pin ItStress and Your Health

Stress and Your Health

Posted on 02/02/2015  by  Healthy Living Blog 

This post begins our series on stress and your health, presented by Ronesh Sinha, M.D.  Dr. Sinha has a particular focus on improving the health of the South Asian population, particularly those working in sedentary, high-pressure occupations. But this series applies to anyone – any age, occupation, ethnic or cultural background. The vital role of stress in your overall health cannot be overstated.

Follow this blog series to learn about:

  •  Why the stress response is designed into your body
  • How prolonged stress impacts your body
  • Stress and your heart, brain, muscles and nerves
  • How stress impacts your energy level and sleep
  • How stress may be aging you
  • How to determine your own stress level
  • And most importantly, practical steps you can take NOW to reduce the impact of stress on your health.

Why is the stress response built into our bodies?

As early humans, the stress response was perfectly designed to keep us alive and safe from danger, including predators that were out to eat us! The stress response is designed to rev the body up for a quick getaway or a battle: the “flight or fight” response.

What happens in the body is a cascade of physical reactions including:

  • Accelerated heart beat
  • Widening of air channels in your lungs to increase oxygen delivery
  • Release of adrenaline to “speed you up”
  • Release of glucose to power muscles
  • Widened pupils to improve vision
  • Lowered gastrointestinal activity – we need to run, not digest

The problem with our fantastic stress response system is that it no longer fits our lifestyle. It is rare that any of us face a situation where we may truly need to flee or physically fight. Instead, our bodies may initiate the stress response in situations where there is no escape or ability to fight - a traffic jam; a disagreeable boss or colleague at work; a looming deadline; a sick child who can’t go to school or daycare today – the day we have a big meeting.

While the stress feels bad emotionally, we may think that’s all that is happening. But inside our body, repeated, chronic activation of the stress response is taking a toll.

For our hunter/gatherer ancestor, the stress response was helpful!
  • Tight blood vesels kept us from bleeding.
  • Elevated blood sugar gave us energy to flee or fight.
  • Stored belly fat gave us the extra calories we might need
  • Increased pulse and breathing kept us alert during the crisis
  • Muscle tension protected our bones and internal organs
But the same physiological responses in the modern, sedentary person give us:
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Central body obesity
  • Palpitations and anxiety
  • Pain, muscle spasms and tendonitis

 Convinced that chronic stress is a problem for your health? Good!  Read:

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Ronesh Sinha, M.D., is an internal medicine specialist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Working in the Silicon Valley with large employer groups, Dr. Sinha, is the author of The South Asian Health Solution and speaks frequently on health issues as they apply to the South Asian population.


 

dng1959 wrote on 02/15/2015

None of this is new. What would be useful is some methodologies for reducing the adverse affects of stress in our daily lives.

Grant Casinger wrote on 02/15/2015

Going to routine appt to doctor causes my BP to escalate to unsafe levels As soon as appt over it goes down. Am afraid of all doctors. How can I get over this?