Protect Yourself from Daily Stress that Raises Your Disease Risk

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You eat right. You exercise. You do your very best to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Yet, your daily life leaves you bombarded with emails, texts, phone calls, work matters, family matters, financial crises, traffic jams and more, which can be as deadly as a couch potato lifestyle.

Stress is difficult to avoid – it comes in many forms – and while some stressors ensure you always challenge yourself, others can literally steal your health and well-being. A recent study found that the even healthy people who lose their jobs experience a 35 percent increased risk of heart attack. Chronic stress can also lead to a condition known as adrenal fatigue, which causes your cortisol levels to become entirely diminished and leave your body incapable of mobilizing energy and protecting itself from illness.

Of course, few have the option to quit their jobs and relocate to a tropical island away from woes of daily living.  But, you can take time out of your schedule to mentally relocate to a tropical island or other fantastical place that suits your fancy and, according to one study, it will decrease your disease risk.

Aside from the classic pillars of a healthy lifestyle –eating right, exercising regularly and quality sleep – meditation may just be the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself from stress-related disease. The study, published in the journal, Circulation, adhered to rigorous standards to ensure accuracy of results and withstand skepticism. The study found that after adjusting for weight, smoking habits and diet, individuals who participated in a transcendental meditation program, experienced a 48 percent reduction in their risk of heart attack, stroke and death after five years. This is compared to the other group, which participated in health education and awareness classes in lieu of meditation.

Transcendental meditation is a form of meditation that involves shutting out the outside world and maintaining focused, inward thoughts, while remaining alert. Previous studies have found a link between meditation and disease prevention, but many unsubstantiated claims have also been made, leading many physicians to remain skeptical of the efficacy of meditation. This is one of the first studies to control for so many factors and follow such stringent scientific standards.

Dr. Roger Garcia, a preventive health physician and Medical Director of BodyLogicMD of Columbus, encourages all his patients to make meditation part of their healthy lifestyle. He says, “You can’t discount the mind-body connection.  You have to surround yourself with and an epigenetic, self-nurturing environment where you can better deal with stress, create inner peace, and release the difficult memories trapped within your body. I encourage my patients to find the techniques that work for them – activating the parasympathetic relaxation response over the sympathetic stress response.”

Dr. Garcia recommends a list of stress-reducing techniques to his patients, including meditation, prayer, optimism, a positive attitude, energy medicine, energy psychology, positive visualizations, acts of kindness and love and spirituality. But you don’t have to get spiritual to turn off stress; he says patients have to be comfortable in their relaxation techniques to achieve effective results and everyone finds comfort in different activities. He also recommends listening to music, dancing, laughter, bubble baths, massage, yoga or saunas to reduce stress.

The fact of the matter remains – daily stress can literally kill you. Including relaxation techniques as part of your healthy lifestyle plan can make a significant difference in your disease risk as much as your mental well-being.