Stress, Portrait of a Killer – How is Stress Related to Poor Health?

Stress Assignment

Watch Stress – Portrait of a Killer – Full Documentary (2008).

The video features Robert Sapolsky, author of Why zebras don’t get ulcers. He suggests the original purpose of stress was survival. However, what once helped us survive may now be shortening our lives. Research shows that chronic stress is associated with obesity, ulcers, heart problems, and the shrinking of our brains. In our society, we don’t value stress reduction, we tend to value the opposite. We admire the multitasker. But how is stress related to poor health?

Discussion Questions

History of how stress was viewed in relation to ulcers?

Stress was initially associated with ulcers. This was after a clear observation of trend where, most people diagnosed with ulcers seemed to be experiencing a stressful phase in their life. However, the explanation on how stress resulted to this condition was initially faulty. A research focusing on the cause of ulcer later identified a bacterium that was responsible for this condition.  This resulted to a dismissal of the initial allegation that associated ulcer with stress.

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The most amazing thing that was determined during the first research was that the ulcer causingbacterium exists in the gastric of all human beings. This raised the question of why the ulcer only occurs in some people, despite the presence of the bacteria in all. This prompted Robert Sapolsky to investigate the relation between ulcer and stress. Robertdetermined that ulcer bacteria only affect people with low immune system. The condition was again related to stress where by, stress was said to depress the body immune system and consequently, giving the ulcer causing bacteria a chance to thrive. This proved the first belief of ulcer being caused by stress.

How does stress impact our heart?

The video predicted that stress hormone can trigger serious negative cardiovascular response, resulting to a pounding heart and increase of blood pressure. In a research to determine the effect of stress on people blood vessels, the researcher examined the arteries of a manager and a subordinate in an organization. It was established that manager’s arteries were clean while that of the subordinate had a number of green tails, with a lot of atherosclerosis build up inside the arteries. Stress and its resulting huge content of hormones was said to destroy the arteries walls of the subordinate, andto increase his blood pressure. This increased chances for heart attack in a situation where a stressed person is subjected to more stress.

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Social and psychological stress is said to clog arteries, restrict the flow of blood, and jeopardize the heart health. This results to serious health issues that can result to serious heart problems. Stress causes the release of adrenaline hormone, which causes temporal increase in heart rate and breathing rate. This can be dangerous in a situation where the arteries are clogged due to cholesterol disposition, and hence creating chances of triggering heart attack.

Discuss what the research shows about stress and our brain cells?

A research was conducted at the Rockefeller University, Canada, to determine the impact of stress on the brain cells. In this study, the researchers subjected lab rats to chronic stress and studied their brains. It was determined that the stressed rats had dramatically small brain cells with no extended branches compared to normal rats that served in the control experiment. The normal rats’ brains were found to have an extended branches demonstrating extensive and healthy growth. This resulted to the conclusion that stress destroys brain cells or inhibits their growth.

The decline of brain cells as a result of stress was found to mainly happen more in hippocampas part of the brains, where learning and memory takes place. The shrinking of the brains due to stress is thus said to result to loss of the capacity to remember, as the brains cells responsible for memory is highly reduced. Chronic stress also makes one unable to remember things they know very well, pushing a stressed person to a level of looking stupid.

Why does stress make us miserable?

A different research was conducted to determine why stress makes people miserable. This was done by examining the brains of baboons’ troop headthat was found to have the least level of stress and that of baboons low in the hierarchy, who were found to be more stressed. This was done by use of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner. The head monkey scan showed shining brains a view that was associated to release of high quantity of dopamine. A similar scan on stressed monkey demonstrated dull brains with low or no release of dopamine.

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The research assessment established that when neuron-transmitter known as dopamine is released in the brains, it bind to the receptors signaling pleasure. This transmitter was found to be high in normal baboon and less in stressed baboon. High level of dopamine initiated pleasure and happiness in the animal. The lack or low dopamine made it significantly hard or impossible to make an animal happy or less miserable. Thus, the low content of dopamine in the brain of a stressed person is the main reason stress people are miserable.

How does stress impact HOW we put on weight? Why is this important to our health?

The research conducted in the Whitehall of England has demonstrated the relationship between stress, individual position in the society and how one puts on weight. Stress is said to not only initiate weight gain but also weight distribution in the body. Weight distribution at the center is associated with individual hierarchy in the society and may in turn be associated to chronic stress. This means, individuals low in social hierarchy may gain stress related weight, which is mostly distributed around the center of the body; around the waist. Stress does alter how fats are deposited in the body, and it is said to be the main cause of obesity epidemic in the world.

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Stress caused obesity is said to contain some of the most dangerous fats. The fats carried inside the abdomen or around the waist circumference are said to be much more dangerous compared to fats carried in any other part of the body. These fats are said to produce dangerous chemicals and unhealthy hormones. These fats and hormones are said to cause serious health effects in the body.

Tragedy that happened to the troop of baboons Robert Sapolsky was studying

Robert Sapolsky was studying a specific troop of baboons; kikara troop, for twenty years.  This troop was characterized by aggressive male, who were high in the hierarchy and less stressed, and oppressed females who were low in the hierarchy and highly stressed. Unfortunately, the kikara troop took food from tourist damping site in their habitat. The food trash included meat that contained tuberculosis. This resulted to death tragedy of about half of the male in the troop. Sapolsky observed that only aggressive, and socially isolated males that did not have social connection died.

The death of Kikara troop alpha males resulted to transformation of the troop. They were twice the number of female than male in the troop. Only friendly males that could manage to treat female with kindness were left. This changed the troop atmosphere to higher social connection and less aggressive incidences. It was discovered that the troop level of stress reduced, reducing other health issues such as blood pressure and obesity in the troop. 

How stress affects the telomeres at the end of our chromosomes and what the researchers found out.

Telomeres referto a compound structure which is found at the end of a chromosome. This compound is said to protect the end of the chromosome from flaying. Telomeres were found to shorten with age. The telomeres are also said to be affected by stress which accelerate their shortening, making a person to look older than his or her actual age. A research was conducted to study the telomeres of a group of mothers under chronic stress. The mothers had a social group where they would go share and laugh despite their situation.

The research demonstrated that those women had shortened telomeres and decreasedenzymes activities. They were also found to experience six years of aging for every single year they took care of a disabled child. This research demonstrated that exposure to chronic stress was highly likely to initiate shortening of telomeres, exposing an individual to early aging where a person looks years older than his or her actual age.

Amazingly, researchers found a way to reduce stress among women who had very high levels of stress. What did they find? What did they find out about these women’s telomeres at the end of their chromosomes?

Stress is said to accelerate shortening of telomeres increasing individual rate of aging. The telomeres were found to shorten, based on the number of years one was exposed to stress. However, a doctor in the field of Telomeres discovered an enzyme that can be used to repair telomeres of individuals, previously exposed to chronic stress. A research with this group of women demonstrated that their telomeres were repaired by socializing and laughing, connecting and helping each other.

The research data demonstrated that stimulation of mind by having a social gathering where people share their problems and get to laugh and be happy can stimulate the release of the enzyme involved in repairing telomeres. This enzyme was also found to be enhanced by being compassion and caring for others, experiencing similar situation or any other hard situations in life. These are some of engagement that helped the women to remain rejuvenated. Connecting with others and finding happy moments in life were found to rejuvenate or reconstruct the end of the women’s telomeres.

What was the intervention to help these women? What were the results of this intervention?

Telomeres were said to be shortened by stress and to be rejuvenated by an enzyme which was stimulated by reducing the stress level. Stress can be reduced by change of atmosphere, to embrace a more stress-free atmosphere where people can share their problems laugh and help each other. In this situation, the women were assisted by being encourage to have more social gatherings among themselves were they can share, feel compassionate about each other, and maybe laugh about  their problems since they understood each other much better.

This intervention resulted to stimulation of telomeres rejuvenating enzyme that enhanced the hearing of their telomeres. This resulted to ease the maintenance of their telomeres, such that their chronic stress associated with taking care of their disabled could not destroy their telomeres completely. Frequent rejuvenation through their social support group rejuvenated telomeres more frequently. Asa result,their level of aging due to chronic stress was highly reduced despite of being always exposed in a chronic stressing situation in life

What did you learn in the video about the effects of poverty on stress levels? 

The video has demonstrated a great relation between stress and social status. According to the video, individual level of stress is highly influenced by his or her position in the social hierarchy. Those that are high in the hierarchy get to experience less harassment and hence they are less stressed. On the contrary, those low in the hierarchy get to be harassed and intimidated by those at the top, even when they try their best. They experience low chances of appreciation, and they are always treated with high level of aggression and strict rules. This exposes the poor or lowly ranked in the social hierarchy to chronic stress.

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Poverty plays a great role in exposing people to chronic stress. Poor are lowly ranked in the society, poorly paid and often highly mistreated, while conducting their normal duties to earn their little pay. Living life of scarcity and struggle to make the end meet also add to their stress. Poverty subjects people to other life cruelties such as being disrespected, subjection to verbal abuse and physical abuse exposing them to more stress in life.

How can we reduce the effects of stress? What are some techniques to overcome the harmful effects of stress ?

Stress is highly motivated by social mistreatments. Its main effects include advanced health issues including ulcers, hypertension, diabetes, loss of memory, and poor brain productivity.Stress effects can be reduced by treating people with a higher sense of humanity, respect, love, kindness, and compassionate. According to the video, the monkey troupe was transformed by the death of alphas;that were more aggressive and brutal while handling females and those lower than them in the hierarchy. The embracement of social connecting, caring for each other and eliminating violence reduced the level of stress in the troop. In human organizations, stress can be reduced by valuing others, giving them a chance to take part in important decision making and eliminating violence and any form of abuse.

The harmful effects of stress can be overcome by promoting social connection, showing empathy to those experiencing different life struggles, socializing, engaging in different physical activities, avoiding multitasking and engaging in other stressful activities, and having personal time to do what interest you such as hiking, and nature walk among others. Socializing can be done by connecting with friends and family for a coffee or lunch date, physical activity can involve riding, jogging, and playing in a team game such as soccer. One of strategies that I can use to overcome effect of  stress include socializing and showing compassionate where I would visit a children home with presents and take time to play a team game such as soccer with those children.

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