Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Stress Response, the Body’s Protective Armor can Harm Your Health.

Jane's appointment to my office was at 9am. She had another appointment with her internist to adjust her diabetes medication at 10am. I was late to the office because I had an early morning delivery of a baby girl whose mother had diabetes mellitus. When I entered her room, she was visibly angry. Her blood pressure was 160/100mmgh. She has no history of high blood pressure. She was upset that she was going to miss her next appointment.

I immediately apologized and asked her to close her eyes and imagine her lungs were deep in her abdomen. I instructed her to take a deep breath slowly into her lungs and exhale slowly, keeping her mind on the breath in spite of distracting thoughts. She went through the breathing exercises for about 5 minutes after which I took her history and examined her. After the examination, the medical assistant took her blood pressure reading again. It had come down to 140/80mmg.

The office visit itself may be stressful in itself. Jane was also stressed at the office because of my being late and the fact that she was going to be late for all her appointments including going to work. The perception of threat to her well choreographed schedule overwhelmed her and caused physiological effects of releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and steroids. If Jane's stress had continued over a number of months, the body's adaptive response to the stress would have been overwhelmed because of the magnitude of the allostatic load.

The mini meditation that Jane had at the office was enough to decrease her hypertension and anxiety. Imagine meditating daily. Daily practice of meditation has been found to decrease the stress response by inducing the relaxation response. The relaxation response has been associated with decreased blood pressure, breathing rate, recuperating from harmful effects of stress, with regain of natural ability to cope with additional stress as well as many other positive health effects.

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