Are you stressed out from learning about how detrimental environment impacts can negatively effect our bodies? Does it make you want to hide out in a safe and chemical free environment?
You wouldn’t be alone if you did respond to fear by running for cover. Studies have shown that many
isolate in a response to a threatening situation. This blog is meant to show you that we can actually use stress as a signal to boost our health by reaching out to others and changing our attitude about it.
For example, having relationships with others is in itself is connected to health outcomes. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health discussed that social isolation was a strong predictor for premature death of heart disease rivaling traditional heart risk factors. Medscape reports:
Social isolation is a risk factor for premature death that rivals more traditional mortality risk factors of smoking and high blood pressure, a study shows. Investigators at the University of California Berkeley-University of San Francisco Joint Medical Program in San Francisco found that social isolation predicted mortality for both sexes, as did smoking and high blood pressure.
The “power of isolation as a marker of poor health cannot be ignored,” lead investigator Matthew Pantell, MD, and colleagues write. The study was published online September 12 in the American Journal of Public Health.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data on 16,849 adults participating in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) and the National Death Index.
“Gradients in risk were observed for women and men, with increasing isolation associated with a greater risk of mortality,” the researchers write.
Brooks, M. Social Isolation Rivals Hypertension as Mortality Risk Factor. Medscape Medical News. 9/17/13.
Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print September 12, 2013: e1-e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301261
Besides getting by with a little help from your friends, having a positive attitude toward stress can also mitigate its detrimental impacts. Reuter’s reports (emphasis mine):
People with heart disease who are more upbeat and excited tend to live longer than those who don’t have such a positive outlook, a new study suggests, possibly because they are often more active.
Researchers surveyed people with ischemic heart disease – when the heart doesn’t get enough blood due to narrowed arteries – and found earning a high score on measures of “positive affect” was tied to a greater chance of being a regular exerciser and a lower risk of dying over the next five years.
“It adds to the body of literature suggesting that there may be relationships between positive affect … and all-cause mortality,” Richard Sloan, who studies psychological risk factors and heart disease at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said.
Pittman, G. Positive outlook in heart disease tied to fewer deaths. Reuters. September 20, 2013.
It seems that this happy mind-set has many health enhancing benefits that are not just related to happy mind chemicals, but their effects on our health choices. For example, positive people may have a greater
desire to take better care of our bodies with exercise, which is another determinant of overall health. The original study reads:
In conclusion, we found that patients with higher levels of positive affect were more likely to exercise and were at lower risk of dying during 5 years of follow-up, with exercise mediating the relationship between positive affect and mortality, independent of demographic and clinical risk factors. Because positive affect is related to exercise, interventions aimed at positive affect induction in combination with exercise promotion may induce better outcomes for patients, both in terms of increasing the likelihood of the accomplishment and maintenance of a healthy exercise pattern and in terms of better psychological functioning, than interventions focusing on the promotion of exercise alone. Future studies should focus on the development of such interventions tailored to the specific needs of patients with IHD.
The researchers summarized their findings as follows:
WHAT IS KNOWN
- Positive affect has been associated with better prognosis in patients with ischemic heart disease, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear.
WHAT THE STUDY ADDS
- Identification of exercise as a possible mediating mechanism explaining the relationship between positive affect and prognosis, independent of demographic and clinical characteristics.
- Recommendations for effective combined physical and psychological treatment strategies in clinical practice.
Hoogwegt, M, et al. Exercise Mediates the Association Between Positive Affect and 5-Year Mortality in Patients With Ischemic Heart Disease. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2013; 6: 559-566 Published online before print September 10, 2013. doi: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.113.000158
On my homepage, this week’s blog has a link to Dr. McGonigal’s TEDTalk on how to “Make Stress Your Friend” using these above techniques. I also discuss one of my upcoming solutions to social isolation and wellness care.
The purpose of my BREAKFREE medicine blogs is to provide information and wellness options to a community of like-minded people. This is in order that they will be empowered in their wellness choices, not to be scared.
Feel free to check this out and provide feedback on my Facebook BREAKFREE Medicine page.