Aging column: Stuck in the ‘on’ position
The fight or flight response has served humans and animals well.
The term “fight or flight” describes an automatic physiological response in the body in which humans and animals quickly summon great amounts energy in order to cope with a threat of survival — usually that of becoming prey or becoming injured. In situations faced with danger the body becomes flooded with hormones that elevate heart rate, increase blood pressure, boost energy and prepare the body to deal with the problem.
When the surge of hormones are not released in the “fight or flight” response, the body gets stuck in the ‘on’ production position and our body’s physiological responses meant to help us, wind up hindering us.
Reducing stress today makes tomorrow healthier
According to a study from the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, researchers have found that “Persistent emotional stress that we experience as children may make us more prone to health issues as adults.”
The study also found that chronic illnesses such as heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, and other metabolic diseases may be more prevalent in adults that had experienced emotional stress as youngsters.
At San Francisco’s University of California, research psychologist Aric Prather states, “When people experience early-life stress it actually changes something about them biologically. Stress may influence how genes get switched on or off, for instance, or may initiate some other physiological effects.”
Stop kicking the can
If you have ever observed a loved one suffer the effects of chronic disease and said to yourself, “I hope that doesn’t happen to me,” your wishes alone will do little to curtail your chances.
We cannot kick the can down the street any longer. We must take aggressive and proactive measures today in effort to reduce our chances of developing chronic disease.
The use of alcohol, tobacco, prescribed drugs, recreational drugs, and even some food that we might use to relieve stress can provide short term stress relief. However, too often such actions are harmful as they inadvertently increase inflammation, increase cortisol levels, and increase the production of stress hormones that affect our respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems.
The list of health complications caused from stress is long. However, implementing a daily exercise program and modifying our diet to a nutritionally balanced one can make a great difference in reducing the chances of developing some chronic diseases.
Vegetables and Carbs reduce stress
Indisputably, research has shown us that integrating green leafy vegetables into our diet can assist in lowering stress levels. According to Heather Mangieri, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate, which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, helping you keep calm.”
Complex carbohydrates such as the ones found in peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables, can also be helpful in lowering hormones released during stress. Such carbohydrates help the brain make serotonin; a neurotransmitter the body produces naturally to regulate mood and depression. Often, prescribed antidepressants are used to achieve increases in serotonin levels. Why use pharmaceuticals when we can nearly achieve the same result naturally?
Our body is not meant to be stuck in the “on” positions of stress. Our muscular, neurological and cardiovascular systems will treat us far better if we stress them less.
When stressed, remember low-fat, high-fiber, carbohydrate-rich meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables will benefit you. Avoid high-fat foods, caffeine and sugar.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526
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