A landmark study (the Interheart Study) of over 13,000 patients, led by Sali Yusuf, came to the conclusion that those who reported permanent stress either at home or at work had more than double the risk of developing a heart attack. The global effect of stress was less than for smoking, but similar to hypertension or abdominal obesity. The effects of stress were similar for both men and women. The conclusion was that for non-smokers with good cholesterol levels, “stress is the most powerful predictor of a heart attack.” Your stressed heart needs your help.
Salim Yusuf is a McMaster University researcher whose global approach to heart disease has touched millions of lives is the winner of the 2014 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, one of the world’s most prestigious medical prizes)director of the Population Health Research Institute and vice-president of research at Hamilton Health Sciences, a network of teaching hospitals and care centres affiliated with McMaster university’s medical school.
More recently, the Grant study, started in 1938 and following 262 Harvard grads over 75 years, (see the video) https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness?language=en?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=tedspread , also provided strong support for the growing body of research that has linked social ties with longevity, lower stress levels and improved overall well-being. The study found loving, strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction and longevity in good health. As Georges Vaillant, one of the researchers puts it: Connection is the whole shooting match.
I first read about the Interheart study a couple of years ago, as I was relaxing on a lounge chair just looking at the sky and the mountains, waiting to receive my second therapeutic massage in three days in majestic Mont-Tremblant and I felt I was immune to stress and it’s consequences.
Don’t be a frog
However, I know from my studies and extensive reading, and yes from my own life experiences, that stress is a silent killer. Unless it happens through a huge crisis, it resembles the story of the frog. The one where the frog is put in a pot of cold water on the stove and the water warms slowly. The frog gets used to the warmer temperature little by little and does nothing to jump out, until it’s too late.
Just like the frog, we get used to stress to the point of considering it normal. It’s only when it gets so big that our functioning is so impaired that we need to ask for help or take drastic measures to give ourselves some breathing room.
If you are a single parent, you have stress; if you take care of aging parents, that’s stress too; if you have a job with poor management above you, that’s stress; if you have unfinished emotional business from your family of origin or from a previous relationship, that’s stress; if you are a two working parent family, you have stress; if you have too little money, or too much money (afraid to loose it) that’s also stress. If you hate your job that’s stressful. If you are in conflict with someone, that’s also stress. If you are unhappy in your relationship, that’s stress.
If you feel you don’t have a choice about how you live your life, that’s stress. If you don’t take your lunch break as a break, that’s stress. If you brag about multi-tasking, you are also probably stressed. If you can’t find the time to get that massage or for your eye exam, or…. I could go on and on. If you are a human being, you have some stress in your life, most likely a lot of it.
You can do something about it