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Stress is the number one threat to health and wellbeing

According to Dr Arien van der Merwe long term stress increases the risk of conditions as diverse as colds and flu, heart disease, depression and insomnia. What is more, statistics show there has been a five-fold increase in stress-related illness in the last 40 years alone. According to Dr van der Merwe, one sure way to protect against the effects of stress, is to build up the body’s internal reserves, enabling it to cope better with the demands life brings, by enhancing resilience to stress.

Some stress related ailments and illnesses:

  • Heart attacks
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Migraine headaches
  • Diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar)
  • Muscle spasm in the neck
  • Certain types of asthma
  • Many forms of cancer
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds or other infections

Dr van der Merwe further says that over the past 2 years, important advances regarding research on stress and its impact on health and wellness were made, including the following conclusions about the influence of lifestyle stress on your body and mind.

  • Results of a study published in the British Medical Journal show that work stress is associated with a doubling of the risk of death from heart disease. In promoting cardiovascular health, the traditional advice has always been for people to stop smoking, cut down drinking, eat less fat, and get moving through physical activity. These latest findings suggest that attention should also be paid to the prevention, mastering or management of work stress, according to the researchers.Adapted from BMJ 2002;325:857:Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in modern society. Employees with high job strain, a combination of high demands at work and low job control, have high stress levels and more than twice the risk of death form heart disease compared with employees who have low job strain. The stress levels and risk for employees with effort-reward imbalance (low salary, lack of social approval, and few career opportunities relative to efforts required at work) were 2.5 times higher. High job strain also showed an increased total cholesterol at the 5year follow up, while effort-reward imbalance showed an increase in body weight.
  • A large Swedish study found that men who experience chronic high levels of stress are more likely to have cardiovascular disease and to die of a stroke, compared to their peers with lower stress levels.
  • Two studies presented at the 2004 American Society of Hypertension’s Annual Scientific Meeting, reported that screening for depression, anxiety and stress with suitable stress management interventions can improve cardiovascular disease outcomes and risk reduction.
  • Stress affects immune system health. It has long been known that stress affects our ability to fight infection. The July 2004 issue of Psychological Bulletin reported on a meta analysis (where studies from a multitude of research institutions are reviewed) and highlighted fascinating examples of how stress influences human immunity. Stress can enhance immunity in the short-term but weakens it in the long-term.
  • Stress can promote the ageing process. This pioneering finding in the field of stress research was published in the 29 November 2004 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by doctors from the University of California in San Francisco. It can help explain why chronic stress may accelerate cell ageing.
  • Swedish researchers reported that work related stress doubles the risk of a heart attack.
  • Scientists from the USA and Germany, presented evidence that chronic stress in infancy or early childhood can impair the development of effective and optimal brain cell communication, a condition found in disorders such as autism, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder, depression and low academic performance.
  • According to research, stressed kids are more likely to suffer from adult onset depression and anxiety disorders than their peers with low stress levels.
  • British researchers reported that stress quadruples the risk of asthma attacks in children. Can something be done about this?

The problem has been identified: work stress is bad for your health. So is personal stress. Not only does it double your risk for getting heart disease, long term unrelenting stress can be the cause or exacerbating factor in almost any of our modern day chronic diseases or ailments: from infections, cancer, skin problems, premenstrual tension, severe menopause, back problems, to chronic fatigue, digestive system problems and lung disease.

Dr van der Merwe recommends stress management as of the utmost importance to maintain health and wellbeing and restore a sense of serenity and peace while maintaining your creative, productive, high profile lifestyle!

According to her, the expected results when implementing health and wellness programs: Improved productivity and creativity, higher levels of company morale, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, improved day-to-day quality of working life for the employer and employee.

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