The Metabolic Syndrome
Properly maintaining the following metabolic factors, dubbed the Deadly Quartet, is crucial to good health.
2) Blood pressure
3) Blood-sugar (insulin) level
4) Cholesterol levels
According to the Mayo Clinic, having any of these factors at an abnormal level increases the risk of serious disease. When one or more of these conditions is out of appropriate balance, it's called the metabolic syndrome.
Many studies have shown that stress can lead to metabolic syndrome. Wake Forest University conducted an experiment whereby they exposed laboratory monkeys to chronic social stress causing "a significant number of animals to develop metabolic syndrome." A Yale University study found a link between chronic psychological stress (in human subjects) and abnormal fat storage that appeared to lead to the same syndrome.
Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal gland. It helps regulate blood pressure, releases insulin for blood sugar maintenance, controls metabolism, responds to inflammation, aids the immune system and so forth. It's present in the body at higher levels in the morning and lowest in the evening.
During stress, the adrenal gland becomes more active, secreting high levels of cortisol into the bloodstream.
Abnormally high amounts of cortisol can result in abdominal fat storage, elevated insulin levels (linked to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes), high blood pressure, high blood sugar, poor cholesterol levels and more.
The bottom line is that stress, especially chronic stress, can lead to metabolic syndrome. An estimated one out of four Americans currently exhibit signs of this malady. How we react to stress plays a major role as well.
There are a zillion causes of stress -- anger, depression, fear, incompatible occupation, difficult relationships, finances, health, ambition, perfectionism, competitiveness, low self-esteem, heartache, accidents, crime, etc.
Dr. Murray Mittleman, a cardiovascular specialist, interviewed 1,600 heart attack victims and determined the risk of a heart attack was more than twice as great if the person had been very angry just prior to the attack.
Anger is a petty indulgence by self-centered people. Get over it -- you're not the center of the universe.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center reported that people who experience major depression were four times as likely to have a heart attack as those who were not depressed.
Depression is primarily a self-inflicted emotion by people who become discouraged (give up) or suppress anger. A study at Duke University found that 60 percent of clinically depressed people who took a brisk walk at least three times per week were no longer depressed after 16 weeks. Get off your butt and take care of business.
Anxiety is commonplace in this world. Your adrenaline pumps faster whenever you go into a state of worry or fear. When in a continual state of stress, you get an adrenaline overload, leading to the metabolic syndrome.
To relieve stress, some people overindulge in things to take their mind off of reality, such as food, booze, drugs, smoking and caffeine. Or they may immerse themselves in activities to distract themselves, such as TV, music, hobbies, sports, games, work, travel. But distractions are simply diversions. The stress is still there.
Stress stems from a lack of courage to deal with reality and the anguish of not being in control of your life.
All you have to do to straighten out is drop the anger, climb out of the depression, change your diet, exercise regularly, drink moderately, quit smoking, find a stress-free occupation, dump bad relationships, acquire positive relationships, be carefree in your leisure time, overcome your fears, take a deep breath, relax your body, quiet your mind, smile at the sky and thank whatever might be looking down at you for your divine existence.
Life can be a glorious journey or a bad ride -- it's simply a matter of choice. So take control and be happy.
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.