It’s an appropriate day to talk about stress.
If you treat heart rhythm problems, you can’t miss the effects of stress. It matters so much. Both acute and chronic–though mostly chronic–stress wreaks havoc on the heart’s electrical system. And it’s not just the heart rhythm; the chronic inflammation that goes with long-lasting stress negatively impacts many of our vital human processes: cognition, immunity and waste removal, for example.
Over recent decades, technology and science has gifted heart doctors and patients a vast array of mortality-reducing drugs, stents and devices. Taken together, one might think that all this fury would simply melt away heart disease. Humans should be living longer and better lives.
But that hasn’t happened. Heart disease continues to be our number one killer. Atrial fibrillation, a disease that tracks with inflammation and wear and tear is running amok. Diseases of auto-immunity are on the rise. Looking at the big picture, one could be pessimistic about societal health.
Obviously, most agree that our lifestyles have negated the benefits of therapy. We aren’t dying sooner, but we sure aren’t gaining as we should.
As a caretaker of the heart, I strongly believe chronic stress (and the inflammation that goes with it) lies at the center of this problem. Old school thinking, yes, surely, but I believe Mr. Thoreau had it right—though he did seem awfully grumpy.
Follow me for a couple of weeks. I could show you factory workers discombobulated by night work, flocks of unhappy spouses, harried executives, depressed doctors and lawyers and over-scheduled ministry people who tend to everyone but themselves. And if you weren’t yet convinced of the role of stress in disease, I could clinch it with this cohort: the seemingly healthy (thin, fit, with normal blood pressure and cholesterol) but angry patient. These folks often find their way to me. It seems there is a price to pay for chronic anger.
But there is hope. We, as patients, caregivers and society, can better manage stress. For the sake of our health, we must do better.
I would like to share this beautiful presentation on managing stress. I’m a little late to the party as it already has more than 100,000 views on YouTube. Dr. Mike Evans (@docmikeevans), a regular doctor from Canada, with a knack for drawing, guides us through the evidence base surrounding stress and stress therapy.
- What is the single best way to manage stress?
- What are the characteristics of stress-resistant individuals?
- Can stress management skills be learned?
- Do you know the 90-10 rule?
I’ve been blogging for more than three years now, and I have tried not to steer you wrong. Trust me, this one is worth the 11 minutes. So good.