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Chronic Stress Can...

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Chronic Stress Can...So, you think chronic stress cannot harm and even kill you? Think again.

Last year a very dear friend of mine lost her brother to a sudden and completely unanticipated massive heart attack. In her denial, she expressed shock at this death, stating that her brother was healthy and had no stress in his life. Sadly, she failed to take into account the seriously neurologically impaired condition of his son who, now an adult, functioned no higher than a sex six month old.

In her denial, my friend is not unusual. It is common to think of chronic stress as a condition other people have. In our falsely believing that death is something that visits other people, we blind ourselves to the fact of our own mortality, including the impact of stress on our selves.

Researchers at The University of Western Ontario have provided the first direct evidence using a biological marker, to show chronic stress plays an important role in heart attacks. Stresses such as job, marital and financial problems have been linked to the increased risk for cardiovascular disease including heart attack. 

Cortisol is thought of as the body's stress hormone that is excreted in times of stress. When stress is constant, cortisol continues to be secreted into the body. Now, researchers, as reported in this study, demonstrated their ability to measure cortisol levels in hair samples. This has the potential of being a way to predict and avoid heart attacks after more research is completed.

There is no way to avoid stress in our lives. So,what can you do?

For one thing, you might start reading the excellent articles posted by Mental Help Net's own psychologist, Elisha Goldstein, PhD. His writing center on the importance of mindfulness in daily living. Mindfulness includes integrating such practices into our lives as, meditation, yoga, nutrition, rest and sleep, exercise and both leisure and vacation time.

Yes, it can happen to you, me and anyone of us. Now is the time to learn how to care for ourselves.

Your comments and questions are strongly encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD