STRESS ISN’T REALLY THAT DANGEROUS; IS IT?

hypothalamic-pituitary-axis-simplified“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.

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JUST HOW DANGEROUS IS CHRONIC STRESS?

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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?

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IF STRESS IS A ROOT CAUSE OF DISEASE, WHY ISN’T STRESS MANAGEMENT A TOPIC YOUR DOCTOR DISCUSSES WITH YOU DURING YOUR OFFICE VISITS? 

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Is it possible because there is no STRESS DRUG. There are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.  They may even be indicated to help a person attain a level of stability where STRESS can be managed productively, but they NEVER (by themselves) correct the ROOT CAUSES of STRESS! Have you ever wondered how many conditions RESULTING IN DISEASE would never have manifested in the first place if the ROOT CAUSE (CHRONIC STRESS) was managed properly?

SO, IS STRESS REALLY THAT DANGEROUS!

YOU TELL ME!

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46 comments

  1. Stress kills. I’ve seen it happen in my own family…sadly.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Some might think that sounds so dramatic, but the fact is, YOU’RE RIGHT. Stress can “eat” at the body and mind the same way cancer does (often without early SYMPTOMS.)

      I’m sorry your family had to experience this type of devastation. I appreciate your willingness to share this with all the readers. These personal experiences add validity to my words and just might help someone avoid a similar outcome. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My mother was treated/released with a clean bill of health after a troubling mental health episode, from one of the most reputable hospitals in Philadelphia. The family stress was palpable. Six months later…inoperable bladder cancer, grapefruit-sized tumor. It was no coincidence. Just one example, Doc. 💘

        Liked by 1 person

        1. One of countless examples I’ve been exposed to. Doctors must become more aware to the complexities of human health. We are not simply a “sum of all parts.” We are a complicated woven design consisting of physical, mental and spiritual parts that require BALANCE to function in harmony. Just because one area is “working on all cylinders” doesn’t mean overall health has been achieved.
          I am sorry that your mother had to face and experience this entire situation.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy New Year. Great post, I have always felt the impact of stress on my health so really appreciate understanding why it has such an effect. I have always tried to keep my stress in check and my sleep consistant. With these two things in control I find I rarely get sick Thanks for the useful insight.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great comment. People need to see that “real people” experience health benefits by keeping stress in check. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sandhya · · Reply

    Great post for the new year. I like your detailed explanation of how stress affects our bodies.
    Happy new year to you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy new year to you as well. I try to provide substance without overwhelming the reader with too much technical jargon. I turn to my wife for her opinion frequently. If I see her eyes “spinning” I know I have some editing ahead of me. 🙂
      Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sandhya · · Reply

        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Really good exposition of this malady, Doctor Jonathan. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the feedback and thank you for sharing the article as well.

      Like

  5. Great post! I have recently been learning more about metabolic syndrome and it’s effects. So crazy what stress can do to us!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It can be so much more dangerous than the average person realizes BOTH physically and mentally.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting post! This information makes a lot of things “click” that I’ve experienced or read about.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad to see this article got you thinking and figuring some things out. I hope it adds a small component to making your 2017 a wonderful and memorable year.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so glad you wrote a post about stress! Getting to the underlying root of where the stress is coming from is definitely key, otherwise our bodies spend unnecessary resources/energy on the “flight or fight” response when there’s no real danger.

    I’ve been reading “The Upside of Stress” by Kelly McGonigal, PhD, that takes a different perspective on stress and explains how we can use stress to our advantage. Highly recommend so far! The mind-body connection is strong and it’s incredible what shifting our mindset can do for physical health sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have frequently written that a proper MINDSET is the FIRST STEP REQUIRED for LONG TERM SUCCESSFUL CHANGE. Stress is not taken as seriously as it should be. Without possessing the skill to channel destructive stress, it can destroy a person physically and/or mentally.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Unfortunately the focus in doctors training is treatment not prevention. Not one doctor in my lifetime had inquired about my stress level. I know from personal experience that long term stress , personal and job related contributed to my poor health at one time or another. It is my responsibility now to avoid high level of stress if I were to maintain my health. Thank you for this good post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We all face stress; some of which can be healthy. It is how we channel it from our bodies and our minds that determines whether it will produce harmful effects. I use exercise, reading, playing with my beagle, etc… to channel my stress. These are a few examples that provide physical or mental releases that improve ATTITUDE, CLARITY IN THINKING and support a healthy physical internal environment.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Stress does have a huge impact on us! Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Recognizing this is the FIRST step. Learning how to POSITIVELY CHANNEL stress is the NEXT step. This ACTIVE CHANNELING of stress is essential to prevent the physical and mental dangers from manifesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Health Mastery Movement · · Reply

    A lot of health “nuts” such as myself seem to be doing a lot of things right, but stress is still prevalent in our lives. While eating healthy and exercising are paramount to good health, if stress is still the mix, you’re not as healthy as you might think. Mental and physical health are directly connected!

    Now that I have healthy eating and exercising down, it’s time to reassess the way I handle the “little things” in life that shouldn’t cause major amounts of stress.

    This posts serves as a very important reminder! Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Developing a strategy for STRESS is similar to developing a strategy for exercise and nutrition. We plan for exercise and nutrition by allotting time and implementing a specific game plan. Stress management requires the same allotment of time and planning. This plan provides an outlet when stress begins building. This prevents the harboring of stress and the detrimental physical and mental challenges it causes. It helps the individual gain greater CONTROL over their REACTIONS and RESPONSES as they learn to use positive productive methods to maintain a healthy internal environment.

      Several people have commented about the personal dangers they’ve experienced as a result of lacking this skill. I hope people take this post seriously and learn just how important it really to RELEASE stress in a HEALTHY manner.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Health Mastery Movement · · Reply

        I always appreciate your thoughtful responses, Doctor Jonathan. We always learn a TON from you. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

  11. […] STRESS ISN’T REALLY THAT DANGEROUS; IS IT? […]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

      Like

  12. Hopefully stress management gets better addressed by more holistic approaches and (interdisciplinary) doctor(s) / care teams. I think there is some increasing awareness in terms of mindfulness practices, stress management from within. However, external stress factors need to be addressed too. Key seems to me that stress management, based on the knowledge how harmful stress is for ones health and how everyone can effectively influence it by themselves, is a self-competence taught at all levels of education!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stress in the U.S. is treated like hearsay. The belief is, “one must toughen up” and deal with reality. Internal and external stress factors are greatly minimized. This is a HUGE mistake. Hopefully, as people begin to acknowledge the real dangers behind stress, a more comprehensive approach is used to channel it in a positive manner.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I have to go for a scope Thursday for an ulcer. My stress levels are frightfully high. I blame an unhealthy eating lifestyle for that, but thank god I am now on right track, lost 10kgs so far and 34 or more cms. I know that won’t take my ulcer away or stress but I feel as for stress one needs a copying mechanism of which I can’t cope at all with

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The scoping is simply a diagnostic procedure evaluating for the existence of a pathology (ex ulcer.) The approach used to find the ROOT CAUSE as well as the deficiencies that allowed this condition to manifest must still be addressed. Food, alcohol, stress management, quality sleep, and exercise are all important components. There is NO PILL that addresses the need for LIFESTYLE CHANGES.
      It sounds like you have already begun this transformation as you’ve discovered a better path to follow. Keep up the good work! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank u so much. Dr confirmed no ulcers today. But I have maybe gal stones 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  14. If Gall stones is the final diagnosis, what are the treatment recommendations? What type of dietary recommendations were offered (if any?)

    Like

  15. this was one of the questions at my MD’s office….why have I gained back my weight….one of the answers was stress….putting my dog of 13 years down….like killing one of my kids…my adult brain knew it was the humane thing to do, but my emotional side was really put to the test….I am a romantic, and an emotional person to the core…I am not using this as an excuse but I am afraid it was the start of it….but my MD mentioned it…LOL I love my MD…..she is on top of my care……xxkat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having a great health care advocate in your corner is so important. I’m glad you have so much confidence in her.

      Like

      1. both my Md and my husbands are wonderful, I know how lucky we are!!!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing this message with your readers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Any time doc. Too good an article not to share. I’m sure it’ll help people understand stress more from a scientific perspective. 👍

        Liked by 1 person

  16. […] found this wonderful article on the dangers of chronic stress from Dr. Jonathon. If I haven’t yet convinced you that stress is detrimental to your health, perhaps this […]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing this article with your readers. I hope they find this information beneficial.

      Like

  17. muffythedramaslayer · · Reply

    Going on five weeks with the same headache-my doctor has ordered an MRI just in case but said it’s probably stress related and wrote on the paperwork that I should “try to relax-take baths, dance, listen to good music, consider massage therapy.” Which made me laugh because she doesn’t realize I’m a musician…(oh you mean GOOD music…oh that must be the problem.

    At any rate I did appreciate the diagnosis but the nature of my job as a speaker and teacher means I’m contractually bound to this level of busy-ness until next June. It’s not all negative stress – I love what I do. But even happy-making stress has an effect on our bodies. So I guess the trick is going to be finding the mental path through the next year and a half of living from deadline to deadline!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure I entirely agree with the recommendation as stated. Taking a bath is the same thing as taking a “pill” without the negative potential side effects. It still doesn’t address the ROOT CAUSE or necessarily offset the harmful physical and emotional effects of stress. It temporarily tones down stress hormones until you resume the stressful activities. It seems to make more sense to figure a method and/or approach to alter the stress induced activity.

      It’s tough to get our brains out of the “band-aide” mindset. For most people, they need a more serious diagnosis before coming to this conclusion.

      The two motivating words that cause change in behavior are PAIN and PLEASURE. If both are capable of achieving a beneficial outcome, why not follow a path/solution that produces PLEASURE rather than digging out from a diagnosis that produces PAIN?

      How much damage can occur from following the current path over the next year and a half? Why not work (NOW) on finding the SOLUTION by discovering the PLEASURABLE PATH?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. muffythedramaslayer · · Reply

        Yes! This exactly! I think the stress of the To-Do list can be mitigated when I focus on the fact that I actually ENJOY doing these things and signed up for them voluntarily. But if I agree to do things and then gripe about the workload… that’s just silly. Not to mention stressful.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Looks like you already have some real answers to the problem. I wish you all the best in applying them. Keep up the good humor and accompany it with a smile! 🙂

          Like

  18. I totally agree with the last part. Oftentimes, patients are prescribed medicine, which helps with the symptoms, but doesn’t always get to the root cause. This is one reason I’ve been hesitant to go into healthcare, though I very much appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

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