U-WIRE, 07-18-06 - (U. Mississippi)
(U-WIRE) OXFORD, Miss. -- Stress is a part of everyday life, but recent studies show that stress may be linked to certain diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
According to Russell Blaylock, author of The Blaylock Wellness Report, stress ranging from that experienced in mother's womb to stress regular schoolwork and job stress can weaken the immune system, leaving it a target for diseases like schizophrenia, stroke, dementia, cancer and heart disease.
"And what's more, neuroscientists have confirmed that stress actually causes critical areas of your brain to shrink and crucial brain connections to die," Blaylock said in a recent issue of The Blaylock Wellness Report.
The American Heart Association said the "job strain, social isolation and personality traits" usually caused by stress may be key to the development of cardiovascular disease in some patients.
The causes of stress and the means for preventing are even more variable.
Director of the University Counseling Center at the University of Mississippi Marc Showalter said that stress arises when someone perceives a situation as threatening.
"It's like when you feel like you may have a lot to do and there isn't enough time to do it, or when you change jobs in the workplace," Showalter said.
The most common type of stress comes when something in life "doesn't go as planned."
"Most the time it's related to some relationship with a family member, friend, relative, significant other, etc," Showalter said. "We're stressed out because we're dating somebody or not dating somebody. For students a huge part of stress is when school isn't going the way we want it to go.
"In addition, another aspect is when you've got way too much on your plate."
According to Showalter, victims of stress undergo a variety of physical and emotional changes. For example, when someone experiences stress they may have a loss or gain of appetite, a lower energy level, headaches and problems related to the digestive tract among other physical problems, he said.
Emotional changes may include mild depression and anxiety attacks.
Although there is no cure for stress, ways to reduce and prevent it do exist. According to Showalter and Blaylock, keeping fit and exercising is the best stress reducer.
"One of the best things to help cope with stress is to do something physical like walking, riding a bike, walking your dog or playing tennis," Showalter said. "A big problem for college students is that we don't take care of ourselves physically and that contributes to our stress."
Showalter also recommends reviewing relationships and asking how relationships can be improved to reduce stress levels. He said that talking to someone about the stress and understanding what the source of stress is can be very beneficial.
A.N. Spreen, a doctor with the online health care groupwww.ivillage.co.uk, said that certain types of food can help reduce stress.
Foods low in carbohydrates are recommended to high-stress patients because refined carbohydrates can causes blood-sugar swings that lead to "anxiety, irritability, confusion and other types of stress."
The University Counseling Center was created to help students deal with stress as well as other problems.
Sessions are confidential and free for students, although the center does cater to other members of the community as well.
For more information about the University Counseling Center, visit the web site www.olemiss.edu/depts/stu_counseling or call (662) 915-3784.