Health Effects of Stress
Stress is a natural and essential part of life. Our stress response is designed to protect and preserve our lives. Our bodies are constantly responding to positive and negative stress. Positive stress reduction motivates and drives us. Negative stress affects our physical and mental health and can rob us from experiencing real happiness. If you want to experience living an intentional life of true happiness you can’t run from stress or avoid it. Stress is as much a part of life as breathing, eating and drinking water. Stress discovers our dark places and brings them to our attention. Each stress that we perceive as an obstacle is actually an opportunity. Denying stress, like denying a wound, can make you rot on spiritual, psychological and physical levels.
Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress
Acute stress is anything you perceive as an immediate threat. Our response to the immediate threat is referred to as the “fight or flight response.” This is a pattern of physiological responses that prepares you to respond to an emergency. Acute stress can be caused by any sense of danger, noise, crowding, hunger or infection in your body. More blood is pumped into your muscles, sending more oxygen to your muscles, brain, heart, and lungs. Your blood flow may increase 300%-400%, preparing your lungs, muscles, and brain for added demands. The amount of sugar or glucose increases in your blood, which accelerates your metabolism, so you can take immediate action in an emergency. Your blood thickens as platelets prepare to stop bleeding quickly. As the blood thickens, oxygen increases in red cells and promotes better function of the white cells that prevent infections. The spleen discharges red and white blood cells, allowing the blood to transport more oxygen.
Chronic Stress Affects Many Diseases and Conditions
Research now shows making stress reduction practices the foundation of your self-care prevents, slows or reverses a multitude of diseases and conditions. Below is a discussion of a few of the diseases and conditions affected by stress. The vast number of individuals with these common diseases and conditions is hard to comprehend. It is difficult to fathom the economic costs and the pressure these spiraling diseases and conditions have on our health care system, individuals, families, and corporations. We can no longer wait for our failed health care system and flawed health education to help us out of this massive dilemma. It is time for each of us to take responsibility for our own self-care. There is a vast amount of information today on self-care, much of it confusing and incorrect. Simple stress reduction practices provide you with a simple, comprehensive and easy to remember format that you can easily assimilate into your busy life.
Is the number one killer in America, affecting more than 80 million people. Heart disease kills one person every 34 seconds in the United States alone. Nearly 2,400 Americans die each day from this disease. Sadly, 250,000 people with heart attacks will die before they get to the hospital. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over 40 years old, especially after menopause. More women die of heart disease than other cancers combined. Conclusive research maintains stress management, diet, exercise, and group support, not only reduce the risk of heart disease but can actually reverse heart disease.
Nearly 1.5 million people every year are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Cancer accounts for 1 of every 4 deaths in America; 560,000 die each year, nearly 1500 per day. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in both women and men. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Approximately 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women ages 35-54. Colon cancer will be diagnosed in 140,000 people each year. More than 180,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year and more than 30,000 men will die of the disease. All of these cancers are positively affected by practicing stress reduction and stress reduction practices help reduce the recurrence of cancers.
Today 17 percent of all children and teens in this country are overweight and 66 percent of all people age 20 and older are overweight or obese. Excess weight and obesity are serious health threats because they are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and other serious health problems. The current generation of children may become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents. Medical expenditures attributed to both overweight and obesity has reached $132 billion. Stress reduction provides the foundation for a healthy lifestyle for the individual and the entire family.
Over 70 million people in the United States have hypertension or high blood pressure. One in three adults has hypertension, which is defined as systolic blood pressure over 140 and diastolic blood pressure over 90. Research shows that practicing stress management lowers blood pressure.
A new survey done by USA Today/ABC/Stanford University indicates 4 in 10 adults, say they suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain costs an estimated $100 billion a year in medical costs, lost working days, and workers compensation. Stress reduction has positive results in reducing pain when it is used to augment mainstream medical regimens.