25th November 2009
Can we control stress? Dr Dhiraj Gupta, a consultant cardiologist, says that we can do a great deal to mentally manage it, which in turn has a positive effect on the body. In other words, stress is all in the mind. It is also a great myth that some jobs or occupations are more stressful than others, as the results showed when four people were asked to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours and the findings were analysed by Dr Gupta, who works at Spire Liverpool Hospital.
Stress prompts the body to raise its output of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, causing changes in blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism. These are normal physiological responses intended to improve physical and mental performance.
But it may also be detrimental, disrupting our ability to manage. Constant or recurrent exposure to stress may produce anxiety, depression, headaches, indigestion and palpitations. Long-term problems include higher risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Dr Gupta says: 'Your heart-rate measurements can be a simple snapshot to assess the level of stress you are under, physically and mentally. 'The usual resting heart rate in a healthy person is between 60 and 80 beats per minute.
It can rise above these levels during periods of physical exertion or mental stress. 'The response to physical exercise is dependent upon the state of overall physical fitness, so fitter people would exhibit a milder increase in rate compared to those who are more sedentary.
'Similarly, "mental conditioning" can favourably blunt the heart-rate response to potentially stressful mental-situations, and this is one of the ways regular yoga or meditation is believed to improve health, by reinforcing the adage, "mind over matter".
'No job is stressful in itself. It is the mind's capacity to cope that determines the level of stress you feel.'