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LIFELONG HEALTH- Root of All Health Evils Is Stress, So Deal With It PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. David Lipschitz Creative Syndicate   
Thursday, 27 September 2012 03:23

While stress is a natural part of life and the way we respond to challenges, it does cause acute and chronic hormonal changes that can lead to high blood pressure, mood disorders, alterations in immune function, increases in cholesterol and a higher risk of heart attack, infections and cancer.

It is not surprising that recent research has shown that stress is a major predictor of stroke, as well. Too much stress may cause you to overeat or under eat. It can make you more prone to lash out at others and cause unnecessary conflicts.

Stress can push you to seek mindless activities, such as watching television or playing video games. At its worst, too much stress can lead to abuse of alcohol or drugs.

Regardless of what the greatest stressor may be, many Americans simply do not know how to cope with stress, and stress doesn't necessarily end with retirement. More and more evidence shows that, as a nation, we are not dealing with stress well.

According to a recent survey of the American Psychological Association, 78 percent of Americans admit to using poor coping skills when it comes to stress.

People who have heart disease travel from all over the world to learn Dr. Dean Ornish's techniques of eating right and exercising to prevent further heart problems. His group has reported that, out of all the factors that reduce heart attack risk, the most important is meditation. Furthermore, studies indicate that stress reduction is a central element of recovery in patients with cancer, following major surgeries and dealing with depression.

The macho hard-driving man or woman with a Type A personality is the most likely to develop stress-related illnesses and the least likely to have the time to learn simple stress reduction techniques.

Fortunately, there are exercises that decrease stress levels that can be done in 5-10 minutes. These methods all revolve around learning how to use breathing as a powerful relaxation tool.

A good suggestion is to download one of the hundreds of meditation applications available for any smart phone. Find a quiet place to sit and relax, use headphones and start listening to the relaxation instructions.

You may be told to "deeply breathe in relaxation and breathe out tension." While breathing, you may be asked to slowly contract and then totally relax the muscles of your hands and feet and move upward, relaxing every part of your body while developing a great sense of peace and calm.

Another highly effective technique is referred to as guided imagery. Here you are asked to imagine yourself gradually walking down a scenic path to the most enjoyable peaceful place you can think of. While in this place of breathing deeply and imagining true pleasure, hormonal changes occur that promote better health.

If relaxation exercises are not for you, think of other simple activities that can create more peace. Meditation, prayer, exercise and yoga are good examples.

Other options include holding hands with someone you love, sitting outside with a glass of wine and enjoying the wonders of nature, going for a stroll in the afternoon before dinner, listening to good music, giving yourself a mini hair massage or sitting and stroking your pet.

Dealing with stress is not a simple task, and if you suffer from a stress-related illness, consider psychotherapy. Soon after having a heart attack, I sought help from a worldrenowned psychotherapist who specialized in helping people cope with cancer. If she could help cope with cancer, surely she could help me deal with my heart problems.

She taught me some critically important lessons. In addition to relaxation techniques, I learned that we must all work hard to assure that our needs are met, that we become willing to say "no" if a task is too much, that we cannot take ourselves and our work too seriously, to smile and laugh as much as possible, to be kind to ourselves and to others, to learn how to handle conflict and to become aware of what stresses us the most.

Thanks to her, I am truly a better, more comfortable man who can cope well with the daily aggravations that are a natural part of all of our lives. And fortunately 15 years later, I have no evidence of any heart disease.

Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the book "Breaking the Rules of Aging." To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz visit

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 September 2012 03:27