Archive for the 'Stress' Category

Blood Pressure

I take my blood pressure nearly every day. It’s a habit I fell into fifteen years ago when Doctor Halverson said, “Hmmmm, you need a little something to help reduce your systolic pressure. That’s the big number.”

I’ve gone through a few blood pressure measurement devices. My current favorite is the cuff that goes around the wrist. Then you press a button, the device constricts, and about thirty seconds later, you get three readings including systolic, diastolic, and heart rate. Sometimes the readings produce a happy face. Other times I frown.

I don’t like frowning and, in violation of the blood pressure taking rules, wait about twenty minutes and do it again, maybe twice. I find that with each iteration, the numbers are more to my liking, so that’s what I record on my log.

I bring the log to my annual physical and watch Doctor Halverson scan it and then smile at me with his perpetually smiley face. In 15 years, I have never told him my secret; then again, I’m sure he knows and factors it into his calculations.

My routine doesn’t change much. I take my morning supplements, make a mug of Peet’s dark roast in my Keurig, bring the mug to my desktop, and log into the New York Times. If I haven’t already sensed my stress level building, I grab the pressure cuff and do my thing. Today, my systolic rang in at 155; frowny face appeared.

Putting the cuff aside, I scanned the Times home page and found an article titled The Truth About the Internet’s Favorite Stress Hormone. Perfect, I was already stressed so how much worse could it get? I launched into the article. Cortisol was the star of the show.

The pituitary gland, sometimes called the master gland, works with the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol into the bloodstream. When stressed, the amount of cortisol increases to cope with the stress produced by any number of things. Back when cavemen dragged cavewomen home to meet mama, cortisol helped the hairy bastards deal with the stress of hungry neighbors like the 23-foot long Quincana, a relative of the crocodile. Or the 11-ton wooly mammoth.

Except for the occasional stupidity of visitors to illegal animal parks, we generally don’t use much cortisol running away from hungry beasts, even in the middle of Ojai Avenue. But, in natures way, there are replacement stressors to take up the slack.

And that’s where the NY Times shines. Take this morning for example. The market is a mess, Trump is consuming half of the Justice Department’s annual budget, Putin and Xi Jinping are best buddies, Ron DeSantis is expanding his Don’t Say Gay xenophobia to hide his ignorance of foreign affairs, Netanyahu is proceeding with his plan to bury Israel’s supreme court, and a bunch of publicity hungry congressmen want to ban Tik-Tok, making its 150 million U.S. users very peeved. It’s almost too much for my adrenals and cortisol to bear.

But you got to watch your cortisol intake. Too much cortisol has been blamed for contributing to high blood pressure and a lack of sleep, so fighting wooly mammoths just before bedtime is not a good idea. Since cortisol is also blamed for depression and PTSD, it’s probably unwise to dwell on the news, like that offered by the Times (or even the Ojai Valley News for that matter).  As a bonus, some people develop a lump of fat at the back of the neck while others put on weight or feel fatigued.

Reading the article brought on more stress as I mentally tested myself against the reported possible disorders. A second cup of coffee did nothing to alleviate my anxiety while raising my cortisol level. I thought about my occasional sleeplessness, waking at 2am and then failing to fall back to sleep. My unfounded concerns which at the time of night warrant an Emmy, coupled with an extra shot of cortisol are, I’m sure, the cause of my bleary-eyed condition the following morning.

I finished the offending article and as further punishment clicked into Fox News. I occasionally visit this alien site and compare its headlines with the Times. I was rewarded with a gold star as my cortisol soared to even greater heights.

Giving my adrenals a sabbatical, I returned to the Times and was pleased to see that no giant asteroids were predicted today. Feeling like I was on a roll at the roulette wheel in Vegas, I grabbed my pressure cuff and spun it. It said “126 over 68.” Perfect.

I probably ran out of cortisol while scanning the Fox News page. Bet I sleep all night.



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