Sugary Drinks Linked to Higher Blood Pressure

aaMatisse_1948_PlumBlossomsSoft drinks, sweetened fruit juices, and sugar-loaded sports drinks raise blood pressure, according to a International Study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP). The researchers measured the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, sugars, and diet beverages (which contain high quantities of glucose and fructose) over the course of four days, administered two 24-hour urine collections and eight blood-pressure recordings, and asked questions about the patients’ lifestyle and medical history. Results show that there is a direct correlation between fructose and glucose intake and increases in blood pressure and that sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with a 1.1-mm-Hg increase in systolic and 0.4-mm-Hg increase in diastolic blood pressure after adjustment for weight and height.

Sugar-sweetened beverages have been linked to high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart-disease risk, and this is one more piece of evidence showing that if individuals want to drink these drinks, they should do so in moderation. Also, one of our interesting findings was that the association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and blood pressure was stronger in people who are consuming more sodium. We already know that salt is bad for blood pressure, but what we’re finding is that if you’re consuming more sodium, you appear to be, at least in this study, exacerbating the effects of these sugar-sweetened beverages.—Lead investigator Dr. Ian Brown (Imperial College London, UK)

3 Good Ways of Responding To a Panic Attack

OBriensTower_EN-US194301618A panic attack ambushes the mind, the body, and the soul. Its targets are self-esteem, a balanced self-assessment and the ability to analyze situations and expected outcomes. When panic strikes, the present becomes a bleak landscape of dangers and the future includes a (seemingly) real possibility of annihilation. In the presence of a real (or perceived) significant stressor, one’s abilities to respond to the challenging situation becomes severely impaired. For the span of the panic attack, chest pains, shortness of breath, shaking, sweating, and even nausea and vomiting can give the sensations of impeding death. Can something be done to prepare for a panic attack with any degree of success?

One: Know Thyself

A first important tool is the ability to anticipate one’s own reactions, by getting to know them well enough so that they do not become stressors in themselves. Knowing the likelihood (and thus anticipating the possibility) of the physical sensations that go with feelings of panic (chest constriction, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and sweating) may help avoid the distress that these symptoms can cause. The very fact of knowing that these physiological reactions will take place, and allowing them to happen as a natural and understandable reaction to a threat to our well-being, can be beneficial.

Two: Know About Panic

Panic attacks are about as close to feeling imminent death as one can get, as anyone who has experienced them in all their severity will attest. A panic attack occurs without anyone else’s intervention (usually no one else is present). It can be extremely frightening even when no real physical danger exists (it can strike a person comfortably seated in his or her favorite recliner). A panic attack, by definition, occurs without any clinical danger of death and cannot by itself cause death or serious injury. A the most, when it reaches a certain level, a panic attack may trigger a loss of consciousness through hyperventilation (prolonged shallow breathing). This usually resolves the physical symptoms by momentarily taking the brain out of the picture, whereby the body can returns to homeostasis. When the person comes to, usually the panic attack is gone just as suddenly as it came. Exhaustion is not infrequent at this stage, as a panic attack can be a real workout for the heart and muscles.

Three: Manage Your Response

BearAttackA useful tool in preventing the recurrence of panic attack is stress management. Allowing the body to react, in concert with the mind, to a situation that may objectively warrant fear, sadness or worry is not only strategically sound, it is also physiologically healthier. Just as courage is not the absence of fear but simply good fear management, allowing a naturally-occurring biopsychic reaction to a stressor is simply good stress management.

Thus, the key to successful panic attack management is not in denying or attempting to prevent the stress reaction, but in what to do next (our chosen response). After the initial physical reaction ebbs and subsides and the heart rate naturally returns to near-normal levels, the real stress management response has a chance to begin. This response should first and foremost consist of addressing the stressor that is causing the panic attack to occur.

3 Good Ways of Addressing Serious Stressors

Three options usually exists in addressing significant stressors:

  1. Eliminating the stressor that caused the panic attack to occur.
  2. Removing oneself from the stressful situation, if option 1 is not available.
  3. Reducing the impact of the stressor through relaxation techniques or good coping mechanisms, when options 1 and 2 are not available.

8 Hours of Stress Each Day

Excluding the off-the-charts stress of a job loss, there are certain on-going job conditions that may be present throughout the working day and that almost invariably lead to significant stress.

Job Design

Some jobs are just not well-designed, i.e. they contain requirements and features that are inherently stressful. This may include a heavy workload caused by the organization’s need or desire to have one person do the job of two (or even three) people. Another may be inadequate or frowned-upon breaks that do not let the individual rest the mind and the body for even a few minutes at a time. A third may be too-long working hours that interfere with needed rest and one’s personal life. Yet another is being asked to perform tasks that have little chance of being successful, do not utilize one’s skills adequately, or force individuals to use skills that are not their strong suit. In these situations, and in these economic times, it is not unheard of for someone to work to the point of mental or physical exhaustion and beyond, as “anything else would jeopardize the job.” A fear-induced highly negative perception of the precariousness of the job can be a significant factor that may make overlooking a flawed or poorly designed job a dire necessity.

Management Style

The wrong management style, either authoritarian or overly permissive, can cause a lack of participation in decision-making, poor communication within the organization, absent or ineffective people-friendly policies, inattention to ergonomic or environmental problems, poor handling of grievances or legitimate complaints, or micromanagement. Often, these circumstances can only change if there is a change in management. 

Stressful Interpersonal Relationships

Difficult or strained relationships with bosses, coworkers or subordinates, due to lack of support, camaraderie or helpfulness can foster a sense of isolation or of being under attack. Usually, something can be done to remedy these situations from the personal side, as in, “better relationships start with me.” However, seldom these issues are perceived, and often dysfunctikonal relationships tend to promote further isolation and to create a vicious circle of misery.

Confusion Over Job Roles

These can take the form of having diverging or simply too many responsibilities, or the all too common occurrence of having to please or satisfy two or more constituencies with opposing goals, i.e. please the customer while maximizing revenue. Often these confusions are unavoidable due to the competitive and profit-oriented nature of most businesses. 

Career Concerns

We may harbor sometimes overt but more often secret concerns over various aspects of the position we occupy, such as the security of the job itself, due to job-specific or industry or general economy threats. There may be rapid changes in the job description or its requirements for which we may feel unprepared. There may also be unfulfilled desires of growth opportunities, such as advancement, promotion or change. A fear-induced highly negative perception of the precariousness of the job can be a significant factor, even though it may not be commensurate to the objective reality of the threat, i.e. fear without real risk of job loss.

Structural and Environmental Conditions

The conditions in which we must perform our tasks may range from mildly unpleasant to physically dangerous. There may also be noise, bad breathable air, overcrowding or constrictive body positions, such as prolonged standing or sitting or heavy lifting, or even too much typing. The degree of control that we can have over these stressors is often minimal or none.These often are legitimate and objective constraints that would stress anyone under the same circumstances.

Stress News: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Stress and the Unborn

Overexposure to stress hormones in the womb can program the potential for adverse health effects in those children and the next generation, but effects vary depending on whether the mother or father transmits them, a new animal study suggests. The results were presented this past Saturday at The Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Depressed-Soldier-02A new study from the Journal of Traumatic Stress finds that for active-duty male soldiers in the U.S. Army who are happily married, communicating frequently with one’s spouse through letters and emails during deployment may protect against the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms after returning home.

Veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars showed a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after just eight weeks of practicing the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique, according to a pilot study published in the June 2011 issue of Military Medicine.

Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are likely to have a higher chance of developing heart disease and to die prematurely, US researchers reported in the American Journal of Cardiology. They found that those with PTSD were more likely to have coronary artery disease, an accumulation of plaque in the arteries that lead to the heart disease.

Stress and Multiple Sclerosis

Contrary to earlier reports, a new study finds that stress does not appear to increase a person’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). The research is published in the May 31, 2011, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease

Stress promotes neuropathological changes that are also seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have discovered that the increased release of stress hormones in rats leads to generation of abnormally phosphorylated tau protein in the brain and ultimately, memory loss and dementia.