“My job creates so much stress.” “My marriage is so stressful.” “The holidays are always a stressful time of year.”
We hear the word “STRESS” so often, we are almost immune to the REAL HARM it often produces. It is NOT just a NOUN or VERB. It is an EMOTION that causes SERIOUS HEALTH COMPLICATIONS that are rarely addressed in a PREVENTATIVE HEALTHY MANNER.
JUST HOW DANGEROUS IS CHRONIC STRESS?
Let me show you the ramifications using only ONE of many stress hormones produced by the endocrine system in our bodies. The picture at the top of the page shows the process starts in the Hypothalamus. It sends a message to the pituitary gland that ultimately creates a stress hormone in the Adrenal Glands known as CORTISOL.
Cortisol is best known as the “STRESS HORMONE.” It is responsible for increasing blood sugar levels during stressful episodes when increased ENERGY is needed (ex. escaping from a burning building.) Conversely, when the emergency ends, cortisol removes the excess sugar and re-deposits it into the liver. The regulation of of this metabolic pathway is essential for human survival.
Elevated cortisol over time damages the body’s ability to regulate this pathway. Increased cortisol along with chronically elevated blood sugar is the precursor to a condition known as “Metabolic Syndrome” (a condition that creates a combination of several if not all of the following:) (a) increased blood pressure, (b) excess storage of body fat, (c) heart disease, (d) unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride profile, (e) stroke, (f) diabetes.
Chronically elevated cortisol is also responsible for weakening immune function. It prevents the body’s specific “army cells” (known as T-lymphocytes) from multiplying to combat pathogens (viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders.) In addition, it prevents an important inflammatory response created by the body to limit the damage and spread of these foreign “invaders.” This means a mild infection that might typically resolve in 3-5 days could result in a prolonged illness and even death.
Elevated cortisol also damages receptors used to process and store memories in another region of the brain (known as the HIPPOCAMPUS.) Can you see how easy it would be to misdiagnose “loss of memory” on the typical aging process when, in reality, it could be the result of prolonged STRESS and the damaging effects of ELEVATED CORTISOL?
When is the last time your doctor explained the life threatening impact elevated STRESS causes YOU! We know it RESULTS in heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cognitive impairment, obesity and recurring infections (as a result of a weakened immune system.) We also know that doctors use drugs as their vehicle to address (NOT FIX) heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cognitive impairment, obesity and recurring infections. Do we really want out doctors to wait for and treat the RESULTING DISEASES or do we want our doctors addressing the UNDERLYING CAUSES and MECHANISMS to PREVENT THE DISEASES FROM DEVELOPING in the first place?
IF STRESS IS A ROOT CAUSE OF DISEASE, WHY ISN’T STRESS MANAGEMENT A TOPIC YOUR DOCTOR DISCUSSES WITH YOU DURING YOUR OFFICE VISITS?