Published July 09, 2012
What stresses you out the most? If you’re an American man – odds are, it’s money.
Two out of three American men reported they are stressed out, with financial situation being the top contributing factor, according to a collaborative survey by Aviva USA and the Mayo Clinic.
Thirty-four percent of men who took the survey said that finances stress them out the most, followed by family and/or relationships, job stability and fast-paced lifestyle, with only 8 percent reporting that they stress about their health.
Health may be the factor which we have the most control over, yet in this study 25 percent of men did not exercise regularly and 45 percent reported that they experienced an increase in weight over the last decade. Predictably, this study also revealed a strong correlation between high levels of stress and dramatic weight gain.
It is well-established that stress can negatively affect the immune and cardiovascular systems. However, more research is needed to understand the relationship between stress and increased susceptibility to disease.
When the body is influenced by stress it releases hormones, specifically cortisol and adrenaline. In combination, these two hormones comprise the “fight-or-flight” response and cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels.
Experts believe that small doses of these stress-induced hormones can be beneficial, but when they persist for long periods of time, they can be damaging to your health.
Chronic stress can increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and depression, and can foster unhealthy behaviors including substance abuse and overeating. A weakened immune system can leave you susceptible to many illnesses, including virus-associated cancers.
I recommend my patients focus on both improving physical and mental health. While a causal relationship has not been established between stress and cancer, an association surely exists.
Recent research suggests that men who performed stress-relief exercises before prostate cancer surgery experienced improved immune responses and physical function one year after surgery.
The first step in coping with stress is to recognize that you’re stressed and take action in dealing with it. Men who feel that finances are the biggest source of their stress should consult with a financial advisor to help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with the unpredictability of fluctuating markets.
Another way to help combat stress is to get adequate sleep, about 7-8 hours, each night. Sleep allows your body to heal itself, so it is not surprising that the less you get, the worse you’ll feel.
Another simple remedy is to consume more antioxidant-rich foods. These foods help eliminate free radicals and prevent cell damage. Some of the most antioxidant-rich foods include cranberries, blueberries, beans, potatoes, pecans, walnuts, ground cloves and cinnamon.
Finally, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that men tend to push off doctor visits longer than women, often avoiding the doctor until major health problems arise. But stress can actually exacerbate a developing illness, making it harder to treat. Visit your doctor regularly to monitor and maintain your health.
Dr. David B. Samadi is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. To learn more please visit his websites RoboticOncology.com and SMART-surgery.com. Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.