Cholesterol levels and possible links to disease have been a topic of discussion and confusion over many years, and probably will still be for some time to come. I was very intrigued by new findings reported this week in the Wall Street Journal linking stress to increases in LDL cholesterol, which in excess can accumulate and potentially clog our arteries.
The article hit home because we are living much more stressful lives than in the past between work schedules, information overload, and disturbing news events from around the world. We just cannot get past increased stress anymore. It is a fact of life and may be here for the duration. Before discussing the importance of managing stress, let’s look at the link between stress and cholesterol levels.
Just how does chronic stress increase LDL cholesterol? The WSJ article points out that when people are stressed they may exercise less and exercise is known as a stress-buster. Chronic stress also leads to excess cortisol and adrenaline being released as part of the fight-flight response. Cortisol and adrenaline stimulate the release of triglycerides and free fatty acids, which can raise cholesterol levels over time. The article underscores that it is unclear as to how much stress can increase cholesterol levels.
That being said, what I drew from the article is the need for people to really think through on ways to manage stress. This means first acknowledging and accepting that we are under stress, identifying the causes, and trying to minimize triggers. We need to identify our “personal stresses” and find ways to manage them as “one man’s poison is another man’s cure”. Importantly, we need to feel that we deserve living a less stressful life. Living with excess stress and doing nothing to manage it can be a form of self-punishment and some people don’t believe that they have the right to be happy.
For myself, after reading the article, I made a list of personal stresses and vowed to tackle them step-by-step. One of the pitfalls of making changes is that we often try to do an overnight overhaul. Change is a slow process and one that involves failures and steps backwards. Internalizing this idea can make us approach reducing stress less “stressfully”.
We always need to be prepared for unforeseen stresses in our lives and tackling too much at any given time may sap our energies. Given these words, it is time to sign off one the biggest blessings and stresses in my life, the computer. Signing off for now, and hopefully using it less and less.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”- Hippocrates
Photo- June Rousso