I have believed that stress is the leading cause of death for the last 12-14 years. I have believed it due to the literature, but I have believed it even beyond the literature. Published studies being the literature of course.
Its interesting because stress has been a difficult area to study. It is very hard to quantify something that you cannot see.
“Oh they are completely stressed”
– “How do you know?”
“You can see it in them, hear it in their voice, they’ll even tell you about it”
– “So on a scale of 1-10… where do they fall?”
Who is going to hit the same scale of 1-10 often enough to actually study the effects of stress, while truly knowing the answer to the question, “HOW” stressed are they? So with that we delve into understanding stress a bit more, while not fully knowing if we can ever truly understand the impact stress might have on an individual.
High Blood Pressure
Unlike cholesterol, high blood pressure is a REAL cardiac concern. There are real documented studies, and theories that support an increased risk of death due to elevated blood pressure. Primarily related to the competence of existing vascularity. If you have a sclerotic artery, or a heavily plaqued one, a sudden increase of blood pressure can be deadly as it bursts through an area unable to give and flex with the change in pressure.
If you have never directly experienced the result of stress and increased blood pressure, you should test yourself the next time something really stresses you out. In the moments immediately following a strong stressor, many people will be able to record an elevation in blood pressure.
Stress has also been shown to reduce immunity, and create opportunities for ever present bacteria and viruses to become active in your system. I say “ever present”, because I am talking about the micro-organisms that are always present. You always have a presence of strep and staph, it is simply kept at bay by your immune system. Weaken it through stress, and watch your average days feeling symptomatic (congestion, runny nose, coughing, etc), increase.
Cancer as a Secondary Effect
Because Cancer is highly correlated to increasing in rate, when lowered immunity is present, stress has been often reported and studied as a developmental risk for cancer. Take it lightly, and you find yourself shocked when the diagnosis comes. Take it seriously, and perhaps you’ll find ways to de-stress.
The mechanisms of how stress impacts these areas are not completely known. There are changes in vascular permeability that occur, increasing blood pressure, and altering fluid movement in the body (which can decrease mucous membrane production altering the presence of antibodies in certain areas). There are obvious alterations in muscular action, also constricting blood vessels. But there are also more specific changes that seem to happen in some people, where the production of specific hormones decreases in the presence of increasing cortisol. This shift may have a larger impact on specific thiol levels (groups of hormones that are responsible for healing DNA and other specialized tissues).
Ultimately, there are many unknowns, but the known, is that stress needs to be attacked. There is a supplement that I have used for years, Cenitol, with my patients under great neurological stress. It has helped many of them get off of anti depressant meds, and likewise has helped many avoid getting on them, while offsetting the impact of stress. The product is rich in myo-inositol, which helps manage mood at high levels.
In addition, I have always believed in a higher level of the b-vitamins for stressed individuals, but not just the b-s, the associated necessary phytonutrients and enzymes make sense, so instead of a one off supplement, we always suggest juice plus as a means to accomplish this task.
With compromised immunity, we have never seen anything quite as good as balancing the cervical spine through chiropractic care, to improve the immune system. Blood work studies have revealed increases in PMN Neutrophil production of up to 20% within fifteen minutes of an upper cervical adjustment. This is perhaps the biggest aid in protecting oneself from the immuno-impact of stress.
But in the end, the real answer, is to develop coping skills, so that even in the presence of stressors, they do not become stress. I believe this is completely possible, but I believe it requires faith in God, in submitting to a higher purpose and higher authority. Without that, I don’t see many ways to avoid stress other than to simply not care… but that is not easy, and not necessarily advisable.
Be well and be blessed! – Dr. E