Tag Archives: stress

Meditation Combined with Art Therapy Can Change Your Brain and Lower Anxiety

Captured by Thomas Jefferson University

Cancer and stress go hand-in-hand, and high stress levels can lead to poorer health outcomes in cancer patients. The Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine combined creative art therapy with a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for women with breast cancer and showed changes in brain activity associated with lower stress and anxiety after the eight-week program. Their new study appears in the December issue of the journalStress and Health.

Daniel Monti, MD, director of the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and lead author on the study, and colleagues have previously published on the success of Mindfulness-based Art Therapy (MBAT) at helping cancer patients lower stress levels and improve quality of life.

“Our goal was to observe possible mechanisms for the observed psychosocial effects of MBAT by evaluating the cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes associated with an MBAT intervention in comparison with a control of equal time and attention,” says Monti. “This type of expressive art and meditation program has never before been studied for physiological impact and the correlation of that impact to improvements in stress and anxiety.”

Read more…

Does Fatty Food Impact Marital Stress?

Captured by Newswise

New Study Looks for Impact of High Fat Diets on Interpersonal Relationships

Today’s busy families often rely on fast food and take-out to keep everyone fed and on schedule. Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center want to know whether those types of food, which are often high in saturated fat, impact the body’s reaction to stress.

The recently launched study is for married couples and conducted by the husband and wife team of Ron Glaser, director of The Ohio State University College of Medicine’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research; and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor at the same institute. Both have spent more than three decades studying stress and its physical effects.

“In the marital studies we conduct, we’re also interested in how close personal relationships can either be protective or make things more difficult,” says Kiecolt-Glaser, who is also principal investigator of the study.

The research is designed to help gain an understanding of the physiological differences in the body’s responses to a fast-food type meal compared to a healthier meal, and how the discussion of a stressful topic can impact health.
As part of the study, married couples are asked to attend two day-long research sessions together at Ohio State’s Clinical Research Center. During each visit, blood samples are taken and the couples eat meals that appear identical. At one visit, the food is high in saturated fat. However, the other meal is low in saturated fat. The couples are asked to discuss a stressful subject in their marriage, such as finances, in-laws, annoying habits, etc. More blood is taken afterward to determine if the stressful discussions influence how the body processes the fat in the food by looking for changes in triglycerides.

“What you’re eating may actually interact with your behavior, to make things worse in terms of your physiological response,” says Kiecolt-Glaser. “In previous studies, when discussions got a little more heated we saw bigger changes in stress hormones and larger changes in immune response. In this study, we theorize that after the high saturated fat meal, a negative discussion might increase physiological responses more steeply.”

Kiecolt-Glaser, Glaser and their team are looking for changes in pro-inflammatory cytokines in the couples’ blood samples. These proteins are part of the immune response and start the healing process after an infection, injury or other tissue damage that leads to inflammation. Previous research by Kiecolt-Glaser and Glaser has shown when stress causes cytokines, particularly interleukin-6 (IL-6), to remain elevated in the blood stream too long, they contribute to long-term inflammation which is linked to a number of age-related diseases including diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer. Glaser says stress isn’t the only factor that can keep levels of cytokines elevated; fat can too.
“Fat cells around the abdomen, called adipocytes, also make cytokines. So the more fat you have around your waist, the higher levels of these cytokines you have, and the more health risks you have,” says Glaser who is also a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics. “It’s really about the processes of how stress affects the body. When we start learning about the processes, then we can try to find ways to modify them.”

The study is expected to wrap up in 2014 and is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Ohio State Center for Clinical and Translational Science, a collaboration of scientists and clinicians from seven OSU Health Science Colleges, Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Patient’s Perspective Key to Preventive Health Care

Guest post by Anup Kanodia, MD, MPH, Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine, The Ohio State University

Anup Kanodia

Consider the top two causes of death in the United States, heart disease and malignant neoplasm (cancer). These surpass all other common causes of death combined. It seems that the prevention of these diseases should be prioritized. General prevention of such rampant conditions is difficult for large populations since so many factors can be involved such as genetics, physical exercise or mental outlook. However, person by person lifestyle choices are known to be huge factors in the risk equation and can be altered to significantly lower each person’s relative risk.

The question then becomes, “How exactly can this technique become personalized?” Furthermore, “How can I, as a physician, incentivize a patient to accommodate these new lifestyle choices?”

 Learn About Communicating with Your Doctor

When a patient comes into my office, I find an opportunity to ask that person, “What is it you like to do?” Or, “What are you passionate about in life?” Whether it is a hobby, their family, their religion, or caring for their pet, it makes no difference as long as there is something. It is important to make a connection between this activity and the patient’s happiness by asking them if one leads to the other. Inevitably, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” This allows me to recommend to him/her a few preventive lifestyle decisions that will allow that patient to improve their chances of avoiding health circumstances, which could hinder their ability to live their passion and, with better health, will allow them to enjoy their passion more fully.

This leaps away from the common method of doctors using scare tactics to make their patients fear getting sick. This technique succeeds for two very intriguing reasons: It turns what would usually be perceived as having a negative undertone to something that inspires a positive implication for the patient; and, it also makes the treatment more about the patient and less about health in general. Instead of me, an arbitrary doctor, telling a patient that he/she should be living a certain way as a means of prevention because I say so and I know what’s best for him/her, I am giving the patient insight into how they can live an improved life. I am making the healthcare process about them and not about me, which causes the patient to positively react to my advice and proactively act upon that advice.

The beauty of this methodology is that it is very personalized in that different people will have different preventive methods to reach different happiness goals. The eventual objective for this ideology from my perspective is to set up preventive-specific clinics on their own, such as a stress or exercise clinics, so that people may go to whatever clinic accommodates the personal lifestyle choice that they need help with. 

Is conventional medicine ignoring you?

Dr. Anup Kanodia is also a member of the Center for Personalized Health Care at The Ohio State University Medical Center.

Stressed-Out Workers Less Likely to Stick With Wellness Centers

Captured by Health Behavior News Service, Center for Advancing Health

Asking people who join a gym, fitness or wellness center just one short question about their stress level can identify those who are at risk of health problems and poor health habits, according to a new study.

The study, which appears in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, looked at responses from a questionnaire about stress levels, health status, quality of life, tobacco use and physical activity from workers when they enrolled in their employer’s wellness center. Nearly 17 percent of more than 2,000 participants reported stress “as bad as it can be,” the survey selection for the top level of stress. Stressed employees also reported poorer eating habits and overall health, more fatigue and lower activity levels than their less-stressed counterparts.

According to Dave Gallson of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, stress affects all interactions and relationships. For instance, workplace stressors can negatively affect home lives and vice versa.

“Unaddressed, workplace stress undoubtedly has negative repercussions for employers,” Gallson said. “Understanding the consequences and costs of mental illness within workplaces led employers to acquire mental health resources and support to help those who are working through illnesses.”

Certainly, as the spike in memberships to gyms, fitness and wellness centers in the aftermath of New Year’s resolutions shows, people have good intentions about health — but the attrition rate is all too high. Unfortunately, the study shows that stressed-out people are the least likely to sign up and the most likely to drop out.

“Traditionally, many people defined a wellness center as a fitness center,” says principal study author, Matthew Clark, Ph.D., of the psychiatry and psychology department at the Mayo Clinic. “This is changing, and most now include stress reduction, nutrition, spirituality, sleep, work-life balance and relationships [in their definition]. So it is important for facilities to include programs for all these domains and to ask the initial question about stress levels so they can address overall quality of life.”

“It’s important for employers to think about opportunities for workers to be active, because they will be happier, less stressed and more productive,” said Carolyn Dewa, Ph.D., of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “This is especially true in winter months in cold climates, when it is more difficult to be active.” Or, farther south, when it’s too hot.


Just Too Ill to Chill

Captured by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

I’m not getting sick. I’m not getting sick. I’m about to go on vacation and I’m not getting sick.

That’s what you’re telling yourself because you bought the tickets months ago, you’ve worked a lot of overtime and you deserve some R&R. Therefore, you’ve decided to ignore that slight sniffle, hovering headache and raw throat. No matter how congested you are, you’re going to board that plane and try not to sneeze on the lady next to you in the aisle seat.

The last thing anybody wants to do is spend his or her scheduled time off being ill, especially these days when many employers lump vacation and sick time into one pot and an unexpected stomach flu can swallow time saved for a getaway.

And nobody wants to be the guy who calls in sick the day he’s supposed to return to work from a week at the cabin. Even if you really are under the weather, it just looks bad.

More than a few of us have, legitimately, been that guy. So why does the body seem to break down just when it’s about to take a well-deserved rest?

Researchers who study the impact of stress on the immune system say it’s not all in our heads. Vacations don’t make us sick, but the stress we incur leading up to our time off sets us up for illness right about the time we’re unfolding the beach blankets.

“Stress before you go disregulates your immune system so it’s priming you for bad things,” said clinical health psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the S. Robert Davis chair of medicine at Ohio State University’s College of Medicine. Kiecolt-Glaser and her husband, Ronald Glaser, are recognized as pioneers in stress/immunology research, linking stress to a diminishing of the body’s capacity to heal wounds and to shortening the life expectancy of caregivers of terminally ill people.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Glasers did a clinical study with medical students to determine the effects of stress on the immune system. They took blood twice a day from the students to track their immune systems for an entire school year. Because the students’ tests for a semester were usually announced in advance, that gave the Glasers benchmarks by which to measure how the students’ bodies responded to serious deadlines.

The Glasers found that before taking a scheduled test, the students would sleep less, eat poorly and wear themselves down pulling all-night study sessions. In turn, their blood work showed their immune systems were not functioning at a normal level.

“Why it’s relevant for the rest of us is that several days before you’re about to take a vacation, those days are usually filled with frenzied activity where you’re trying to pack in a week or two’s worth of work into a couple of days,” Kiecolt-Glaser said. “That’s the same type of overload our students experienced.” Read more…