Preventing the Damaging Effects of Stress

Managing stress and overcoming its affects are critical for achieving and maintaining optimal health.  My mantra has always been:  Eat well, exercise properly and manage your stress for optimal health.

stress

Eat a well-rounded whole food diet full of fresh (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables, staying away from packaged, prepared and genetically modified foods, and drinking plenty of clean, filtered water.

Exercise for balance, as well as strength and cardio.  Our bodies and nervous systems were designed for movement.  Humans are unique in our ability to stand up and walk around on two legs.  In order to accomplish that, our spines curve in and out which allows us to balance in an upright stance.  Advances in technology, however, require many of us to sit far too much and use our bodies in ways that were never intended causing repetitive strain disorders and muscular imbalances which cause skeletal imbalances.  So, when you exercise, it’s important to balance the muscles used repetitively by focusing on their counterparts.  Or cross train.

Stress management is a huge subject, because the causes of stress are so complex.  Stress comes in many forms: physical, mental and emotional.  Physical stress can be caused by such things as poor diet, injuries and environmental factors such as smog.  Mental stress may come from your job, and emotional stress may come from relationships, or even a buildup of other types of stress in the body.  The important thing to remember is that the body itself does not differentiate between the various types of stress – all of it is handled in exactly the same way: stored in your tissues somewhere.

The first step to controlling stress is to know and recognize the symptoms of stress.  But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think.  Most of us are so used to being stressed, we often don’t know we are stressed until we’re at the breaking point.

And, while a little stress every now and then is nothing to be concerned about, ongoing, chronic stress, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems.

We all experience some form of stress in life.  Mental tensions, frustrations, and insecurity cause the most damage.  Hormones released by stress shrink the vessels inhibiting circulation.  A stressed mind and body means the heart works harder.  Breathing becomes rapid and shallow and digestion slows.  Nearly every bodily process is degraded.  Studies show stress can cause migraines, high blood pressure, depression, etc.  In fact, researchers estimate 80% or more of disease is stress related.

And yet, the antidote to stress is readily and easily available:  Massage Therapy.  Massage helps counteract the effects of stress.  Massage knows no age limits.  It works wonders on the young, the old and the in-between.  It can be especially helpful for the elderly experiencing the effects of aging which can include thinner and drier skin, reduced tissue elasticity, loss of mobility, slower nervous system response, decreased bone mass, sleeplessness, constipation, and a less efficient immune system.

Getting a massage does you a world of good.  Getting frequent massage does even more!  This is the beauty of bodywork.  Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year.  Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health.  As a wise man has said “The best time to start taking care of yourself was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”

Advertisements

How Hypertension Affects your Health

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often called a “silent disease” because you usually don’t know that you have it. There may be no symptoms or signs. Nonetheless, it damages the body and eventually may cause problems like heart disease

hypertension

It’s important to regularly monitor your blood pressure, especially if yours has ever been high or above the “normal” range, or if you have a family history of hypertension. Because hypertension can cause heart disease, you may also need to be tested for heart disease.

Measuring Blood Pressure

You can get your blood pressure measured by a health care provider, at a pharmacy or you can purchase a blood pressure monitor for your home.

Blood pressure is measured in two ways: systolic and diastolic.

  • Systolic blood pressure is the pressure during a heartbeat.
  • Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure between heartbeats.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is written systolic over diastolic (for example, 120/80 mm Hg, or “120 over 80”). According to the most recent guidelines, a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Pre-hypertension consists of blood pressure that is 120-139/80-89. Blood pressure that is 140/90 or greater is high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Blood pressure may increase or decrease, depending on your age, heart condition, emotions, activity, and the medications you take. One high reading does not mean you have the diagnosis of high blood pressure. It is necessary to measure your blood pressure at different times while resting comfortably for at least five minutes to find out your typical value.

In addition to measuring your blood pressure, you need to take into account your medical history (whether you’ve had heart problems before), assess your risk factors (whether you smoke, have high cholesterol, diabetes etc.), and your family history (whether any members of your family have had high blood pressure or heart disease).

If you suspect you have high blood pressure, you need to consult your doctor.  If heart disease is suspected, your doctor may recommend other tests, such as:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): A test that measures the electrical activity, rate, and rhythm of your heartbeat via electrodes attached to your arms, legs, and chest. The results are recorded on graph paper.
  • Echocardiogram:   This is a test that uses ultrasound waves to provide pictures of the heart’s valves and chambers so the pumping action of the heart can be studied and measurement of the chambers and wall thickness of the heart can be made.
  • Cardiac stress test: During this test you may exercise on a stationary bicycle or treadmill to increase your heart rate while EKG readings are taken. A stress test can also be combined with an echocardiogram or nuclear medicine X-ray to get additional information.
  • Cardiac catheterization: A catheter, a small flexible tube, is inserted into the femoral artery in your groin or one of the arteries in your arm and guided to the coronary arteries. Your doctor can locate any blockages in the arteries and can also observe pressure and blood flow in the heart.
  • Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves are used to look for blockages in blood vessels in the neck (carotid arteries) or other parts of your body.

Prevent Hypertension with Regular Massage

Stress reactions require major rerouting of blood throughout the body. This is largely controlled by the speed of the heart rate and the tightness or looseness of the various arteries (the tubes that carry blood away from the heart). So the cardiovascular system is particularly sensitive to changes when we’re under stress, and it suffers when that stress is prolonged.

There are many stress-related disorders of the cardiovascular system, and many of these problems are closely interrelated. In other words, having one cardiovascular problem can greatly increase your risk of having others.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a situation where the arteries are chronically tight, rather than flexible and elastic. Having them tighten down increases the force with which blood moves through them, just as squeezing your thumb over a garden hose increases the force with which the water moves through it. Long-term consequences of untreated high blood pressure are very serious; arteries become prone to damage (atherosclerosis), which will raise the risk of blood clots and heart attacks or stroke.

All of these are life-threatening problems that can be prevented or ameliorated by taking action to reduce stress in your life.  Daily exercise, regular massage therapy, and good nutrition contribute a great deal to lessening your stress while prolonging your life.  Swedish massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure, while sports massage and trigger point therapy raised blood pressure.