So when quizzed, what would you say is the #1 killer out there today? Is it heart disease? It is for women. Is it shootings or car accidents? Or, worldwide, is it mosquitos?

The #1 killer, when it all boils down, is stress. Stress is not weakness and it isn’t just that annoying feeling that life is getting to be too much. It’s a killer that will eat away at you.

Stress makes health conditions you already have, worse, and can cause them completely on its own. It can give you mental problems, it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also manifest in the body as high blood sugar and high blood pressure. Imagine being about to do away with some of your medications simply by lowering or eliminating your stress.

So what does stress do?

Stress immediately signals your body to produce adrenaline and cortisol. This revs up your heart rate and it will make you breathe faster. You’re now making your heart work harder and diverting oxygen to core organs. This raises blood pressure. When your heart is working overtime and your blood pressure is rising, it’s increasing your chance of heart related events… and it is weakening your system over time.

So is stress all about the heart?

No, your liver is also producing a blood sugar dump into the body, which is horrible for diabetics and isn’t good for those without the condition, either. And while stress won’t actually cause an ulcer, it definitely increases the likelihood that you’ll end up with one.

So what can you do?

Learn to control your stress. Whether this is a drastic lifestyle change (cutting out toxic people, changing jobs, moving) or something lighter (yoga, meditation, behavior therapy) is up to you. Even small changes over time can have a dramatic effect.

Take care of yourself and understand that stress isn’t something that you can really ever outrun. You and your health deserve a fighting chance.

Breathe.

Namaste, Rome. I love you. You are my community, my clients, and my path.

Tina Samuels, a native of Rome, is an Ayurveda and shiatsu bodywork therapist and certified registered yoga teacher. Readers can contact her at romebodywork.abmp.com/

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