Monday, November 21, 2011

Stress

I’ve written a bit now about my concept of retirement - doing things, which gives me a massive dose of satisfaction, and ultimately happiness.

Recently I have written about why I have radically reduced my intake of animal-based protein. While becoming a vegetarian poses challenges for someone who ate meat for many years, even the successes I have as I adapt to a meat free diet give me satisfaction - because I am doing what I can to reduce my risk of cancer.

But, does all this satisfaction do anything more than make me a happy camper?

Perhaps the biggest benefit from being satisfied, being a happy camper, is the reduction of stress in my life. OK - I suppose the example above carries a double benefit - going vegetarian reduced the stress of knowing that animal-based protein increases ones risk of cancer. But, on the flip side, knowing I am doing something about my risk of cancer gives me satisfaction.

I wanted to start out this discussion of stress with a couple of quotes I found appropriate:

Charles W. Mayo, M.D ~ Worry and stress affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects heart action ~

Doc Childre and Howard Martin ~ The irony is this: Our bodies react to stress in exactly the same way whether or not we have a good reason for being stressed. The body doesn't care if we're right or wrong. Even in those times when we feel perfectly justified in getting angry - when we tell ourselves it's the healthy response - we pay for it just the same ~

Adabella Radici ~ If your teeth are clenched and your fists are clenched, your lifespan is probably clenched ~

Dr. Hans Selye ~ Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older ~

One of the subjects that I try to monitor is research on the impact of stress in our lives. A simple example is that stress can contribute to increased blood pressure, especially short term, thereby increasing our risk of strokes and heart disease.

But there are many other insidious impacts from stress. Stress can actually make us more susceptible to catching a cold, as documented in a May 12, 1998 article in the New York Times:

“Being under severe stress for more than one month but less than six months doubled a person's risk of a cold, compared with people experiencing only routine stress. Stress lasting more than two years nearly quadrupled the risk. Likewise, the stress of interpersonal difficulties doubled the risk of a cold, and being under work-related stress raised the risk 3 1/2 times. However, less common stresses had no effect on participants' chances of developing a cold. NY Times Article

In fact, if you search “stress” and “catching a cold” you will find a number of studies that point out this link.

Tomorrow I will discuss another area that fascinates me, how stress can impact the expression of our genetic code.

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