Stress is a mind and body killerBy Veita Bland, M.D. / March 17, 2023
Life is to be lived, so the adage goes. How people live life is the difference. Life is not fair. People can be born into difficult, ideal, horrendous, controlling, fantastic or ordinary circumstances. How one handles such circumstances, once again, is the difference. How do people acquire the wisdom, information, life examples or the courage to live their best life?
Stress is defined as the way or manner one reacts or responds to the functions of their body, their life, or their mind including emotional behavior. It is the response life extracts upon all who live. It may be positive or it may unfortunately be negative.
It has been well known that negative stress can take a toll on the heart. Landmark studies have shown how urban stress and the stress of living can affect the heart and thus longevity and quality of life.
New research has recently looked at stress and how it affects cognition, the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
Researchers analyzed data from the REGARDS study: the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study. This study is impressive because it incorporates a large number of people who represent diverse racial backgrounds. The study administered testing to participants 45 years of age and older to determine the level of stress in their lives and measure their response to it. Researchers then reevaluated these same participants eleven years later and saw how the perceived stress in their lives, their ability to handle or not handle this stress affected their cognition and overall health.
Older individuals with increased stress in their lives showed increased levels of hypertension, diabetes and other heart diseases. New data indicate that these older participants with high stress in their lives had a 40 percent increase in problems with their cognition than individuals with low stress in their lives.
A high stress level was found in 22.9 percent of the research participants. The participants in the research study, who identified with a high stress level were younger, obese women of African American descent. Those with a high stress level were also more likely to mot exercise, lack a college education and already have health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol.
The participants who experienced high stress at the beginning of the study and also 11 years later and those who had a new onset stress at the 11 year mark were also most affected.
Stress is a known killer of the body and now a known killer of the mind. If your life is stressful, find ways to reduce the stress. Be proactive with your mental health. Seek counseling, tell your primary care provider and ask for help, increase your physical activity and watch your diet. Incorporate meditation and other stress reducers into your life. A mind truly is a terrible thing to waste.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.