Stress can affect your health, cause even more stress

Print Article

My neighbor, Joe, made an interesting observation the other day while we were discussing autoimmune diseases. He told me that his brother suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and that it was to be expected because his brother lives a very stressful life and doesn’t do anything to eliminate it.

Then, my brother called to tell me that a family friend was diagnosed with cancer. “I’m not surprised,” he said. “He’s always had so much stress in his life and such a negative attitude about everything.”

Hmmmm. Could it be true? Can chronic stress cause illnesses? Yes. Some we know for sure. Some are not conclusively proven.

“Studies have found many health problems related to stress. Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma,” states’s website.

WebMD also says that stress can affect how you age. “One study compared the DNA of mothers who were under high stress with women who were not. Researchers found that a particular region of the chromosomes showed the effects of accelerated aging. Stress seemed to accelerate aging about 9 to 17 additional years.”

Other studies have shown that headaches, both tension and migraine, can be brought on by excessive stress. And, developing hypertension (aka high blood pressure) is often attributed to people who live a high-stress life.

But what about cancer? Can prolonged stress cause cancer? The National Institute on Health isn’t sure.

“Although stress can cause a number of physical health problems, the evidence that it can cause cancer is weak. Some studies have indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, but others have not,” they say.

Although the research isn’t conclusive, they do say that habits developed because of stress, such as smoking, overeating and alcohol consumption, can lead to a higher risk of cancer.

“Someone who has a relative with cancer may have a higher risk for cancer because of a shared inherited risk factor, not because of the stress induced by the family member’s diagnosis,” NIH says.

And, what about Joe’s brother? Can stress cause autoimmune diseases? The National Center for Biotechnology Information says yes it can:

“Physical and psychological stress has been implicated in the development of autoimmune disease…Moreover, many retrospective studies found that a high proportion (up to 80 percent) of patients reported uncommon emotional stress before disease onset. Unfortunately, not only does stress cause disease, but the disease itself also causes significant stress in the patients, creating a vicious cycle.”

So, what can you do? Make an appointment to have a complete physical examination to rule out any justifiable causes for your stress and to talk to your primary care provider about your mental health.

There is a multitude of self-help articles, books, CDs, DVDs, exercise programs all tailored to reducing stress. I just read about a technique that I’m going to try to discipline myself to do right away. I found it on Mayo Clinic’s website.

They say to identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it’s work, your daily commute or a relationship and focus on what you can approach in a more positive way.

I live in Hope. Not the state of mind, the town. I drive to Sandpoint at least three times a week. When I get behind someone who doesn’t drive the speed limit I get a mild case of road rage. But now, instead of swearing and aggravating myself, I’m going to think about how lucky I am that I can afford my car, am still able to drive, have friends in town, etc.

Mayo also suggests practicing positive self-talk.

“Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else …If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you’re thankful for in your life.”

I’m thankful for my readers, my neighbors, my friends and the hospital which I hope to stay out of by working on my stress levels.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or

Print Article

Read More Columns

Can’t make it to the library? The library can come to you

February 16, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee Cheryl (not her real name) was a constant feature at the Sandpoint Senior Center when Lynn first started bringing books there as part of The Library’s Outreach Services work. A “tiny spit-fire” with ...


Read More

Contemplative prayer through beekeeping

February 16, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee “Contemplative prayer through beekeeping” was the theme of a recent sabbatical experience that took my wife and I to monasteries and farms through Europe and the United Kingdom to visit bee keepers...


Read More

Winter Carnival lights up entertainment options

February 15, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee SANDPOINT — Winter Carnival fun is upon us! Along with the always fantastic Parade of Lights — held Friday night though the downtown core — every venue from Schweitzer Mountain Resort to the Panida T...


Read More

Celebrate love with garden for birds, bees and butterflies

February 15, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee No matter how you celebrate the sweetest of all holidays, you can honor Valentine’s Day all year long — the growing season, that is — with a special garden that celebrates love. St. Valentine’s Day...


Read More

Contact Us

(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

©2018 Bonner County Daily Bee Terms of Use Privacy Policy