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Stress, Guided Imagery, And Your Heart

Your Level of Stress a Better Predictor of Heart Disease Than Smoking or Diet

  • During episodes of acute stress, stress hormones provide a protective function by activating the body’s defenses, but when these same protective hormones are produced repeatedly, or in excess, because of chronic stress, they create a gradual and steady cascade of harmful physiological changes. Higher levels of stress load can lead to suppression of the immune system (which leaves us open to infection and infectious diseases), as well as bone loss, muscular weakening, atherosclerosis and increased insulin levels that cause higher levels of fat deposition in the body, especially around the abdomen. People end up with that pear body shape that researchers have shown over and over again predisposes us to heart disease.
  • Even the brain can be affected. In fact, results from studies on aging animals and humans suggest that a lifelong allostatic (stress) load may accelerate changes in the brain that can lead to memory loss. –Bruce McEwen, PhD, of Rockefeller University, New England Journal of Medicine, Jan 15, 1998.


Blood Pressure and Mind-Body Healing

  • Out of 54 medicated hypertensive patients, 58 percent were able to eliminate medication after behavioral treatment, 35 percent cut their medications in half. Seven percent showed no improvement. In unmedicated patients, 70 percent achieve normal blood pressures with an additional 22 percent making clinically significant reductions. Only 8 percent unsuccessful. Follow-up on 61 patients over an average of 33 months indicated little regression in these results. From Fahrion S., Norris P., Green A. Reported in Advances, Volume 4, No. 3.


An angry response to stress can kill you                               

  • A study in Finland of 3,750 men between 40 and 59. Of 104 men in the study who had high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease, those with the highest hostility levels were nearly 13 times more likely to die or be admitted to a hospital for heart disease over the next few years than those with the lowest hostility levels.
  • Kenneth Dodge at Vanderbilt University, working with Dr. Williams, analyzed the law students who had taken the MMPI thirty years ago. Three qualities were most likely to predict death from heart disease – a cynical attitude, an angry mood and an aggressive style of responding to the questions. These were even stronger predictors that the MMPI hostility.
  • A 1983 study of 255 graduates of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, investigated doctors who had taken the MMPI 25 years earlier. Those with scores above the median were about 5 times more likely to have had a heart attack or angina or to have died of heart disease than those who scored below the median. They were also 6.4 times more likely to have died from any cause. In studying 118 lawyers who took the MMPI as students of the University of North Carolina School of Law, those who scored highest on the hostility scale were 4.2 times more likely to have died three decades later from heart disease or other causes than those who are least hostile. Reported by Dr. Williams, Duke University

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