Could Stress be Slowly Killing You?
For as long as there’s been human life on earth, stress has been our companion. And, believe it or not, it’s not always a bad thing. We are here to help at New Life Chiropractic in Fort Wayne, In.
Listen, although stress can certainly take its toll on your body, our bodies are designed to live in the stressful world we live in. In fact, although it may seem strange, a bit of stress can enhance your performance.
You see, stress activates the body’s nervous system, giving us a physical edge in times of need - just what our ancestors would have needed when suddenly faced with a sabre-tooth tiger. The problem is that when humans were evolving, biology didn’t account for the fact that one day we would live in a world where stresses would be constant and long-term, rather than limited to infrequent and potentially life threatening situations.
In the 21st century, stress is a constant presence - whether it’s the daily commute, worries about your kid’s future or about your job security or the constant “ping” from the i-phone (might it be an urgent message this time? - no it’s just another infuriating text alert for products we don’t want or need!). The result is that our bodies are not able to deal with the continual presence of modern stresses. That’s when our health begins to suffer.
The adrenal glands
The adrenal glands play an important part in the body’s sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight” response). These amazing little glands, placed just above the kidneys, are actually involved in regulating the levels of over 50 different types of hormones. They play a crucial role in keeping you healthy.
In times of stress, the adrenal glands release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. But if the adrenal glands have to work overtime releasing these stress hormones then they might not be as effective at the other things they have to do. This can mean that if you’re stressed too often then your hormonal activity may be compromised and this may cause problems like high blood pressure, a weaker immune system, inflammation and even weight gain.
Stress can make you age faster
People who are exposed to long-term stress actually age faster. It’s been found that these people exhibit shorter telomeres in their white blood cells.
Telomeres are a measure of our biological age as they shorten as we get older, but they shorten faster in people who suffer from chronic stress.
Other studies have found a higher mortality rate among people who have a moderate or high level of stress in their life compared to those who only have a low level of stress. So if you’re living with constant stress it’s not something that you should ignore.
How you can beat stress
In an ideal world you’d try and avoid stress as much as possible, but for most of us this isn’t in itself very practical advice. In most of our lives there are stressors which we can’t get rid of like the job, the commute, or money problems that are often at the root of the problem. What we can try to do is change the way we deal with stressful situations.
Here are some ideas for making sure that stress doesn’t have too big an impact on your health:
Get a good night’s sleep
Stress may be causing you insomnia. On the other hand, insomnia may be reducing your body’s ability to deal effectively with stress. It’s important to get enough sleep every night, ideally 7-9 hours. If you struggle to get this amount of sleep on a regular basis, it can lead you to eat more during the day, and in the long term, can contribute towards high blood pressure, heart disease and even type 2 diabetes. If you have trouble sleeping, force yourself to get up at the same time every morning, before 8 am. Avoid caffeine after 1 pm and ban phones and computers from the bedroom.
Cut down on sugar and avoid processed foods
Cutting down on sugar and processed foods can help keep your adrenal glands healthy and can offset some of the physical harm caused by stress. Aim to eat a diet high in green leafy vegetables, oily fish, berries, olive oil and nuts.
Exercise has been proven to decrease stress levels, by pumping out ‘feel good’ endorphins in the brain. If you exercise regularly, you might find that you are able to react more positively to potentially stressful situations. For many, brisk walking seems to work effectively without adding any additional stress to the adrenals.
Try Prayer or Meditation
Brain imaging techniques have shown that prayer and meditation can actually help re-wire the brain to limit the fight or flight response. If you pray regularly, you may find that this helps you cope with stresses in your life.
Mindfulness meditation is also increasingly popular and can be an effective solution to dealing with stress.
Corrective Chiropractic Care
Although chiropractic has been helping people for well over a century, it is also gaining attention as a natural way of helping our bodies to cope with stress in our lives.
One Japanese study found that men who underwent chiropractic care reported a better quality of life and lower stress levels after receiving chiropractic care for back pain. The study also found with CAT scans conducted after the treatment that the interior prefrontal cortex showed increased glucose metabolism – something that’s associated with sympathetic relaxation.
So whatever you decide to do about the stresses in your life, make sure you do something! Every little step you take in the right direction could improve your health and even lengthen your life.
Make a commitment TODAY to help beat stress.
-  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111109093729.htm
-  https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jar/2011/896109/
-  http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx
-  http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/indepth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469
-  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/prayer-health-benefits-meditation_us_56c20fc4e4b08ffac125f2c5
-  http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22314714
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