To Stress Or Not To Stress

I woke up yesterday morning, threw open the windows, and just listened to the birds singing away while the sun shone right in. I was filled with joy that it was Sunday morning, Bear Bearandmewas right next to me, and I could do that.  Then I realized every morning is Sunday morning for me. I live in sunny Arizona and am retired.  The only stress I have is that which I impose upon myself.

I have heard my four grown daughters talk about the stress in their lives and what it seems to be doing to each of them in different ways.  We’re not talking about life or death stress, rather everyday should-I-or-shouldn’t-I stress.  Should I take the new job?  Should I go out with him?  Should I buy a house?  Should I move out of state?  Even (for me) should we have Italian food catered in for our wedding? You know, the usual – and good since so many of them are associated with joyous occasions – life stresses.

Stress?  Hmmm? What does that do to the kidneys? But wait, maybe it would be more prudent to explore just what stress is first.

According to the Free Online Medical Dictionary, “Stress is defined as an organism’s total response to environmental demands or pressures.” The site goes on to explain the description, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, alternative treatment, prognosis and prevention of stress.  While this was interesting reading, it’s not quite germane to the kidneys.  You can find all this information at: http://medical-dictionary.the freedictionary.com/stress

Alright.  We have those demands or pressures. (I distinctly remember my stress about whether or not to allow my youngest to attend a preforming arts high school across the bay from our Staten Island house in New York City.  It would mean a bus, ferry, and subway ride each way to the tune of an hour and a half… without me!)

But what is our organism’s total response?  You’ve got to remember we respond the same way whether the stress is positive (I always, without fail, experience a few minutes of stress before I go on stage or the cameras start rolling) or negative (like when we were told we need a new air conditioning system and we realized that meant the honeymoon will have to wait).stress

Ready? First you feel the fight or flight syndrome which means you are releasing hormones.  The adrenal glands which secrete these hormones lay right on top of your kidneys. Your blood sugar raises, too, and there’s an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure.  Diabetes (blood sugar) and hypertension (blood pressure) both play a part in chronic kidney disease.

If you still haven’t resolved the stress, additional hormones are secreted for more energy.

Still no resolution?  Not good.  Years, even weeks, of stress can “affect the heart, kidneys  {and doesn’t affecting the heart also affect the kidneys?}, blood pressure  {uh-oh, that also affects the kidneys.} stomach, muscles and joints.”  The comments within the brackets are mine.  Thank you to www.comprehensive-kidney-facts.com/stress-management.html for the rest of the information.

blood pressure 300dpi jpgFor those of you who want more technical explanations, I turned to eHow (I think I’m a little bit of a snob here since I’m surprised when I’m directed there in a medical search). According to www.ehow.com/facts_5929145_effect-stress-hormones-kidney-function.html, “The combination of vasoconstriction {that means ‘the narrowing (constriction) of blood vessels by small muscles in their walls. When blood vessels constrict, the flow of blood is restricted or slowed” http://www.healthscout.com/ency/1/002338.html } and increase in blood volume (because of water retention) raises  blood pressure, which can, over time, translate into chronic hypertension {high blood pressure}.  Persistent water retention as an outcome of prolonged elevations in stress hormones can also produce edema {swelling}.”

And that’s only a part of a total medical explanation.  There’s more that stress does to the kidneys but if you think I explained quite a bit in this part of the explanation, I need to tell you that this was the easiest part of the explanation to understand with some help.

Stress management seems to be part of keeping our already compromised kidneys from deteriorating even more.  Naturally, the next question should be what IS stress management?Book Cover

You’re already exercising half an hour a day (You are, aren’t you?) That’s to control your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. To quote myself from What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, “The greater your triglycerides, the greater the risk of increasing your creatinine.”  Me again: “Keeping it simple, basically, there’s a compound released by voluntary muscle contraction.  It tells the body to repair itself and grow stronger.” So it’s no great surprise that exercise also lowers your blood pressure, even when it’s been raised by stress.

At http://www.holisticonline.com/herb_home.htm, you’ll find dietary suggestions to manage stress.  While I don’t agree with all of them (like caffeine, I am NOT giving up my two allotted cups of coffee a day, no way!  They make me feel far less deprived.) and you need to take your renal diet into account, most of them are well worth adhering to.

Smoking and alcohol (contrary to popular belief) will only increase your stress levels.  I’m wondering if we didn’t get the notion they would decrease stress from the movies or television.

Drinking water, but keeping within your daily fluid limits (mine is 64 ounces, which includes any liquid or frozen liquid such as jello), can also reduce stress as can anything that relaxes you: music, your pet, a warm bath, playing an instrument, etc.

There is stress even with a simple little backyard wedding like ours, which is why I’m so glad to be spending more time than usual with my daughters – a great stress reducer for me – and the new people they’ve been bringing into our lives lately.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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