As a nation, we’re stressed out.
If you’re kept awake at night by anxiety or you’re experiencing stress-related high blood pressure, you’re not alone. As internal medicine doctors, we’ve seen firsthand the toll that stress can take on the body.
In fact, 3 out of 4 Americans have experienced at least one stress symptom in the last month.
Another 45 percent say stress causes them to be awake at night, 36 percent report nervousness or anxiety and 34 percent report stress-related fatigue, according to the American Psychological Association
It’s time to do something about that.
After all, mental health is important to your overall health. As internal medicine doctors, we believe in taking an approach to how all systems in your body work together. This is because what affects one area will likely influence another.
That’s why we understand that stress can be a killer. Literally.
If you don’t get help, you’re looking at possibly developing heart disease or even diabetes, according to information from the Mayo Clinic.
We’ll show you some of the devastating effects that stress has on your health after we review the following ways to help you manage stress in your everyday life.
Top 10 Ways to Manage Stress
It should come as no surprise that one of the best things for your body is also good for the mind as well. Exercise creates endorphins, which lift your mood. Exercise doesn’t have to mean intense workouts at the gym. Even something as simple as walking can have benefits.
We can help by suggesting an exercise routine that would work for you. Feel free to ask us! Many of us exercise regularly, and we’ll be glad to share our tips.
2. EAT HEALTHILY
There’s a reason that people reach for ice cream and not celery when depressed. While studies are still ongoing into the relationship between “comfort eating” and stress, researchers believe it has to do with how the sugar interacts with parts of the brain called the hippocampus, which is believed to be the center of emotion and memory.
It also impacts the level of cortisol, also called the “stress hormone,” according to information from Harvard Medical School.
We don’t want you to reach for something unhealthy when you’re stressed. This can contribute to other health problems and make the situation worse.
We want to help. We have a dietitian, Nicole Matala, who would love to help you create a healthy eating plan.
Ensuring our patients are being proactive in their health is an important aspect of our jobs as internal medicine doctors.
3. BREAK UNHEALTHY HABITS
Being stressed may seem like the least opportune time to quit habits such as smoking, but you’ll be glad you did.
Eating too much, drinking too much, consuming too much caffeine and even taking illegal substances are all unhealthy ways to cope with stress. In many cases, these may even make the stress worse in addition to the toll these substances are taking on your health.
If you’re having trouble breaking these habits, we will work with you to come up with a plan that works.
Studies have shown that meditation can cause meaningful reductions in high blood pressure, especially when used in conjunction with medication, according to information from the International Journal of Hypertension.
Studies have shown that, like exercise, laughing can release chemicals that have an uplifting effect on the brain. There are plenty of great comedy shows in Raleigh, and even watching a Netflix special of your favorite comedian can help bring down high blood pressure.
When you’re stressed, you may tend to isolate yourself from others. Often, this makes your situation worse. Volunteering is an excellent way to connect and do a good deed. According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering can also:
- Reduce depression
- Teach valuable skills
- Help you stay mentally active
- Reduce stress levels
- Help you meet others
There have even been some studies that show that those who volunteer regularly actually live longer than those who don’t!
7. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
It doesn’t help matters that Americans are also notoriously sleep-deprived.
A study from the American Sleep Apnea Association reviewed that 70 percent of adults say they don’t get enough sleep at least one night a month and another 11 percent say they don’t get sufficient sleep every night.
Add to that the fact that sleep-problems affect 50-to-70 million Americans, and it’s no wonder we’re stressed.
The Centers for Disease Control state that 1-in-3 adults don’t get enough sleep.
Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Avoid screen time before going to sleep—that means turning off the computer, TV and iPhone. If you’re still having problems, schedule an appointment with us.
8. SPEAK TO ONE OF OUR INTERNAL MEDICINE DOCTORS
As we mentioned earlier, stress can impact several systems in your body. In certain cases, overeating can lead to obesity, which in turn can lead to diabetes. There is simply too much at risk to not get your stress level under control.
We can help by:
- Devising strategies to manage your symptoms
- Prescribe medication if needed
- Monitor your health
- Conducting annual physicals to evaluate your health
We’ll also want to monitor you for signs of heart disease or high blood pressure.
9. FIND CREATIVE OUTLETS
Even something as simple as journaling or taking a painting class can do a world of good. You don’t have to play an instrument or be an accomplished artist to enjoy creative outlets. It can be as simple as a trip to the art museum or going to a concert.
10. SPEAK TO A TRUSTED FRIEND, COUNSELOR OR CLERGY
Sometimes, talking to a good friend or a religious leader can help. If you feel your stress level has become unmanageable, you may want to consider talking to a counselor.
Health Problems, Including High Blood Pressure, that Can Be Caused By Stress
Stress does much more than make you miserable. It slowly erodes your well-being, setting the stage for lots of health problems such as high blood pressure. We’ve listed some of the common side effects of stress.
Get ready. This is a long list.
Some common side effects of stress can include:
- Muscle tension
- Overeating or undereating
- Low sex drive
- High blood pressure
- Upset stomach
- Sleep problems
- Intense anxiety
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Increased risk of heart attacks
- Increased risk of strokes
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, please schedule an appointment. We’d love the opportunity to work with you toward a solution.
Let’s take a deeper look at one of the conditions from that list: high blood pressure.
Stress and How It Affects High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer.” Why? Because symptoms aren’t always obvious. In some cases, there may not even be any symptoms!
One in three Americans has high blood pressure. Often, it’s not detected until you have an annual physical.
It also causes complications such as kidney damage, stroke and heart damage.
However, we do need to make a clarification.
Stress isn’t always the bad guy. In fact, in some ways, stress can be good.
A small amount of stress can serve as motivation. Stress also served as good protection when our ancestors had to be on the watch for bears, mountain lions and other predators.
Too much stress—and how you react to it— is the problem.
When you’re stressed, your body will produce different hormones. As a result, your heart beats faster. This causes your blood vessels to narrow.
The result is a spike in high blood pressure. Do all these little spikes create chronic high blood pressure over time? Researchers are still examining that principle. However, reacting to stress in unhealthy ways such as overeating or smoking can increase your chances of developing this disease.
Not sure if you’re at risk? You can take our quiz.
If you have any concerns, we urge you to schedule an appointment with us today so we can work together with you. We’ll be glad to answer all your questions, including what the numbers on your blood pressure mean.
What Makes Internal Medicine Doctors Different From Other Specialties?
You may have heard us referred to as internists. One of the reasons we became internal medicine physicians was that it allowed us the opportunity to get to know our patients and to work together with them to help them build a healthier future.
We were also drawn to it because it combines technical laboratory science with personalized medicine.
We specialize in treating long-term illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Internal Medicine Doctors Can Treat Your High Blood Pressure and Other Stress-Related Problems
Not only are we experts at examining how the systems of the body work together, but we specialize in helping those who may have more than one chronic health problem. Many of those common problems can be aggravated by stress.
You don’t have to live with overwhelming amounts of stress. Talk to us. We’ll put together a plan that can help you.
Schedule an appointment today.