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1.  What is stress?


The term “stress” as it is currently used was defined by Hans Selye in 1936.  At that time, Dr. Selye defined stress as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand for change” caused by “stressors”, or the physical and psychological stimuli that trigger the stress reaction. He demonstrated that persistent stress could cause animals to develop various diseases similar to those seen in humans, such as heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Modern scientists have clearly defined the biological mechanism of stress and the consequences of severe or chronic stress on the physiological processes of the body.


2.  What is the prevalence of stress?


Twenty-five years ago, a cover story for Time Magazine titled “The Epidemic of the 80’s” referred to stress as the nation’s leading health problem.  Since then, numerous surveys indicate that Americans perceive that they are under more and more stress.  Currently, it is estimated that between 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians can be attributed to stress related problems. 


3.  Why is stress more different and more dangerous in the 21st century?


The nature of stress for modern man is more emotional than physical and is associated with acute reactions over which we have no control that were originally designed to be beneficial.  The archaic “fight or flight” response to such events as getting stuck in traffic or conflict at work can now cause tremendous physical damage over time and even be deadly.  During episodes of stress, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels increase, blood is shunted to the large muscles of the arms and legs, and there is an increase in clotting. An outpouring of adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress related hormones causes many of the effects of stress. Repeated incidents can contribute to hypertension, diabetes, ulcers, and neck and back pain and lead to an inflammatory process that causes serious physical effects throughout the body.


4.  What are the physical effects of inflammation and chronic stress?


Studies have shown that tissue inflammation is an integral part of the aging process and a major cause of significant organ dysfunction. Significant damage can occur to the Central Nervous System and the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and neuromuscular systems. Inflammation caused by chronic stress can lead to an impaired immune system resistance as well as hormonal and metabolic imbalances.  The physical effects of stress can cause such seemingly unrelated conditions as elevated glucose levels, high blood pressure, anxiety, memory loss, weight gain, muscle tension and weakness, headaches, abdominal pain, joint pain, hair loss, and even wrinkles.  


5.  What is the treatment for inflammation?

A treatment plan for inflammation is based on the consideration of the medical history, lifestyle, physical exam, symptoms, and testing of the individual patient. The best measurement for chronic inflammation is a blood test that detects the level of a protein that is associated with inflammation in the artery walls. The goal is to restore the physiologic balance by controlling and removing the excesses that contribute to tissue inflammation, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, or stress and replacing deficiencies, such as nutrients, hormones, or sleep.


6.  What is the effect of stress on the adrenal glands?

Acute stress increases the production of cortisol, but chronic stress can lead to a depletion of cortisol levels.  This situation is known as adrenal fatigue which can lead to chronic fatigue, a condition that can be both physically and psychologically disabling.  The end result of chronic stress is a depletion in the production of all major hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, growth hormone, and thyroid hormones.



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