A group of 4,000 working adults was tracked between 2002 and 2004 to see who lived and who died. The researchers tracked whether or not someone smoked, how high their blood pressure was, how heavy they were, and whether or not they were diabetic.*
They also tracked a measurement of their total stress load called the cortisol slope. When we are healthy, we have high morning cortisol and low evening cortisol; the difference between the two is the cortisol slope. When we are stressed, the slope is flat or backwards.
The shocking results showed that smokers with a lower stress load were less apt to die early than nonsmokers under major stress.
Probably like you, I try hard to take care of myself through careful diet and exercise but used to think little of pushing my schedule now and then. The personal irony is that I learned this fact late one night as I was burning the candle at both ends to complete a book on how stress causes weight gain.
If there are any stressors you can eliminate, please do. Since most of us have many stress-causers we cannot get away from, here are a few tricks to keep your body healthy.
1.Sunlight: Stress hurts us when it disrupts the timing of our daily rhythms. Exposure to sunlight for at least 30 minutes within an hour of waking may be one of the most powerful ways to reset this rhythm.
This works on overcast days and it even works when you are outside in the shade. Of course walking or exercising is a great way to get double benefits out of this time but having your coffee and reading the paper in the sunlight still works. If the weather or the timing of sunrise do not make this possible, you can also sit by a light-box that emits 10,000 LUX of light intensity.
Bright light in the morning raises your cortisol to a healthy level, which wakes you up and energizes you.
: When our daily rhythms work well, we turn off our stress hormones at night so we can sleep. Certain good carbs for dinner can help you turn off stress.
These include lentils, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, and navy beans. Most do well with about 1/2 to 1 cup cooked along with a healthy evening meal including veggies and lean protein. For a free quiz on your stress level visit www.theadrenalquiz.com
* Kumari M, Shipley M, Stafford M, and Kivimaki M. 2011. “Association of diurnal patterns in salivary cortisol with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: findings from the Whitehall II study.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 96(5):1478-85. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-2137.
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