For the past year, I have been working in active Family practice, including busy walk-in clinics, as well as my private office. Having seen thousands of new people in these past months, it is clear that Stress is still one of the major factors in our Health Care Crisis.
Our headlines have never been more stressful, and are all about issues that are beyond the grasp of the individual reader, even though the effects are felt by all. For example, the gulf oil spill, the worsening economy, the jobless "recovery", and, not to forget, our two wars that are claiming more lives, more treasure, and seem to be generating more corruption from the governments we are supposed to be saving. To paraphrase the old saying: "if it weren't for bad news, we'd have no news at all".
But bad news preys on the human body and mind. Especially because we are bombarded with these disasters dozens of times a day (newspapers, emails, talk radio, 24-hour TV news, cell phones, twitter etc). Granted, stations now try to lighten up with idiotic stories, like "Skippy the Squirrel Learns to Water Ski...with film at 10". But the omnipresence of bad energy leads to predictable results. The following is the result of a survey of over 500 patients whose health drove them in to see me in the last three months, and asks the question "What does Stress Do to You?". Each patient could mention more than one choice, depending on their body's responses.
Let's take a look at the Top Ten Ways that Stress Hurts:
1. Insomnia (71%) From having difficulty falling asleep, to having troubles staying asleep, this was the most common complaint. Waking up refreshed was rare.
2. Anxiety (65%) Bad news contaminates our conversations, our dinner hour, and our "down time" that we try to carve out of our busy days. People are developing white knuckles on their Blackberries and I-phones, consuming the latest iterations of horrible news.
3. Depression (52%) With so little control over these stressful stories, no wonder people are depressed. Sales of Effexor have never been higher! (note, antidepressant medications are rarely the best line of defense here, but more about that in other blogs!)
4. Skin reactions (acne rosacea, excema etc) (38%) Breakouts of acne, including rosacea, as well as itchy patches of excema are very common as a manifestation of stress.
5. Cardiac effects: racing beat, increased blood pressure. (23%) Many people can "hear" their heart pounding, as the internal carotid arteries pump close to the ear mechanisms. Palpitations are often felt in the chest, and people will often break into a sweat. Blood pressures can also rise, along with heart rates.
6. Indigestion, stomach pains. (22%)Sales of medicine for heartburn, stomache aches, and acid reflux have never been better.
7. Change of bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea) (22%) Some respond to stress with diarrhea, while others seize up and get constipation.
8. Headaches (including tension, migraines) (20%) Lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days, headaches are a powerful reminder of the mind-body connection.
9. Fibromyalgia (17%) When you have pain in a joint, it is called "arthritis". When you have pain between the joints (in the muscles and soft tissues) it is called "fibromyalgia". No blood tests or X-rays will pick it up, but millions of Americans know it is sure real.
10. Obesity. (60%) While some respond to stress by cutting down their food intake, the majority are seeking comfort with "comfort foods". Obviously badly named! The "white death" of white sugar and white flour contributes to our epidemic of obesity, especially in our children.
While the Prescription Drug Cartel wants us to all believe that each of the above symptoms is caused by the Lack of a Brand-Name Drug, there are a host of ways to defend ourselves before reaching for a prescription pad. We will discuss each of these in upcoming articles!