Saturday, October 13, 2007

Stress....too much....the wrong kind

The other day I gave what I think is the basic question about fitness training - is this natural, is this what we were designed for? You can apply that to your diet - what to eat and how often - to your training - what and how frequent - but also to other parts of your life, the social bits, the spiritual bits. For example there was a study recently showing that loneliness can be bad for your immune system. It fits again with the basic question - being properly healthy also means being some degree anyway, again it is what you were designed for.

What about stress?

What then about stress? It seems that we are all suffering from stress nowadays.

Bryce Lane recently wrote:

My point is that at one time, stress was about something and once you had dealt with that issue, the stress stopped at least until the next problem. However, now stress is a commodity our society can't live without. "Stress" undifferentiated and as raw as possible. Stress isn't about a point, it is the point.

If stress is everywhere eventually those subjected to it lose their capacity to distinguish one type of stress from another. The difference between "my boss is really riding me hard" and the stress of conscience, knowing there is a genocide in some area of the world disappears. They are all interchangeable and they all get more product out the door. Even stress which is very close to you, marital stress, a death in the family, it all mixes together it all becomes just more agitation.

We are in a world in which stress is getting worse and worse. It is no longer a short term issue, a fight to have or run from. Rather than being acute and episodic it is now chronic and constant. It is not natural.

There is a lot of biochemistry in this with all sorts of hormones kicked out when we are stressed, cortisol and the like. And that happens for a purpose....but it is not supposed to be a constant state of agitation. When we get stressed like this the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) pumps out the stress hormones that have all sorts of effects on different tissues.

Experimental studies have investigated many different types of stress, and their effects on the HPA axis in many different circumstances. [1]Stressors can be of many different types - in experimental studies in rats, a distinction is often made between "social stress" and "physical stress", but both types activate the HPA axis, though via different pathways.
[wikipedia article]

Anyway, in this context I thought it interesting that there were several articles in the last week linking stress to disease.

Chronic job strain doubles the risk of a second heart attack - This study is the first to clearly demonstrate the risks associated with job strain for workers who have been victim of a first heart attack. Research had previously shown a relationship between work-related stress and a first coronary heart disease (CHD) event, but studies examining job strain and recurrent CHD were few, limited in scope, and inconsistent in their findings.

Relationship Problems Increase Cardiovascular Risk
- stormy relationships may increase long-term wear and tear on the heart physically as well as emotionally, leading to a modestly increased risk of coronary events. Men and women who reported the most conflict in their closest personal relationship were 34% more likely to have a heart attack or angina over the subsequent 12 years than those with the least amount of conflict(study in the Oct. 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.) reported here

Does Stress Cause Disease? It Doesn't Help, Reviewers Say - In their review article, based on a paper commissioned by the Institute of Medicine, the authors examined evidence linking stress to chronic diseases by two essential pathways: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (HPA) and the ympathetic-adrenal-medullary system. There is strong evidence suggesting -- but not proving -- the existence of a causal link between psychological stress and chronic conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disease and cancer.


This chronic continual stress is really a bad thing for you. Malcolm Kendrick's book on cholesterol and heart disease clears cholesterol of the charge but puts the blame on stress, particularly psychic/social stress.

What do we do? We need to chill, to learn how to get through it. To stress at the right time and in the right way, to burn up these stress hormones, but not to live like this all the time.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Of course I need to listen to this stuff as much as anyone. To relax more. To stop letting work get to me. To try to sort out the stressful relationships. To stop getting so obsessed with goals - like climbing the munros - that the process becomes secondary. To simply chill out a bit.

Plus get good sleep - that is the subject of another post......


Unknown said...

Sorry to be fillin' up on your blog but your first lines included wonder as to if this is what we were "designed for".

It's an interesting mental exercise to assume that the seemingly ridiculous is affirmative then then compare it back to the observed situation.

Imagining what the species "Homostressians"(??) would be like and compare it to yourself or people you know...

Scary huh?


Chris said...

Scary indeed.

and feel free to fill up the blog with comments. It is nice to know peopel are reading it and thinking about it.