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The health benefits of stress reduction

by Michael Roizen, M.D., Mehmet Oz, M.D. | March 28, 2020 at 9:05 p.m. | Updated March 28, 2020 at 9:13 p.m.

We separately asked eight random people, "What's stressing you right now?" They each burst into laughter before confessing there were too many things to list.

When pressed, they said some of the worst stressors included politics, money, work, health, violence/crime, kids, parents, family, the environment and climate change.

When asked, "What does stress do to the quality of your daily life?" they were pretty much in line with an American Institute of Stress study that found overall 77% of folks experience physical symptoms from stress, fatigue and headaches being the most common; 76% have psychological symptoms with anger and nervousness leading the list.

Stress is a national epidemic. Nearly half of Americans say that stress is damaging the quality of their daily life both personally and professionally. At Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Mike's group has tested more than 20,000 people (before worries about COVID-19) and found that their level of perceived stress was five standard deviations above where it was 35 years ago. Clearly, folks are feeling more pressure these days. The good news is that you can manage your stress response, feel better and avoid the health risks associated with a hyped-up stress response.

Stress can cause a very wide range of physical and emotional problems. A new study in JAMA Neurology found that people with severe stress conditions- such as PTSD, acute stress reactions or adjustment disorder (situational depression) - are at an increased risk for vascular neurodegenerative diseases. The risk for Alzheimer's went up 80%! The risk for primary neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and ALS, increased by 31%.

Your stress response affects your metabolism and is associated with an increased level of oxidized lousy LDL cholesterol - the one that causes plaque to form in your arteries and can lead to cardiovascular disease - according to a new study in Scientific Reports. Reducing or avoiding stress may improve your metabolic profile, necessary for weight loss and to combat diabetes. Lowering inflammatory lipids helps boost your mood.

Feeling stress exacerbates muscle and joint pain, because it lowers your threshold for pain and turns on genes that produce proteins associated with increased inflammation. A severe acute stress response or chronic stress can lead to hair loss, excessive sweating and hives. And if you have psoriasis, eczema or rosacea it can trigger a flare.

Your cranked-up stress response can cause diarrhea, constipation or gas and is associated with chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

A persistent negative stress response weakens your immune systems' ability to battle infection and makes you more susceptible to colds and flu (or COVID-19) and can make some autoimmune conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, worse.

Stress can worsen symptoms of preexisting metal illness and trigger bouts of depression and anxiety. It can also damage relationships and cause sexual dysfunction.

Clearly, finding ways to manage your stress response is vital for improving your health and quality of life. Here's how to begin to control it.

Today, start meditating for at least 10 minutes, morning and night. Go to and download the free app, StressFreeNow. It has been shown in three randomized, peer-reviewed studies to decrease perceived stress by more than 40%.

Get your primary care doc involved. Identify and treat your health problems related to stress.

Find a therapist who can help you negotiate your reactions to life's challenges.

Make aerobic and strength-building physical activity (some moderate, some vigorous) part of your daily routine, aiming for at least an hour five days a week.

Upgrade your diet: Avoid red and processed meats and added sugars, and get plenty of fruits, vegetables and 100% whole grains daily.

Improve your sleep routine (you may be sleeping too little or too much) by aiming for seven to eight hours nightly; no digital devices in the bedroom. Keep it dark and quiet; use an eyeshade and earplugs if necessary.


Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit


(c)2020 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.


King Features Syndicate


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