Nutrition plays a significant part in overall physical development, including brain development, and is believed to be responsible for many differences in psychological and health outcomes related to SES (Rosales, Reznick, & Zeisel, 2009). People need the right amount and quality of nutrients to support optimum health and brain functioning, and being either underweight or obese is associated with reduced health. Obesity increases the rates of many chronic conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and breast and colon cancers. As we noted previously, maintaining a BMI below 30 (nonobese) was one of the four protective factors associated with much lower risk of disease. Returning the United States population to normal weight (a body mass index, or BMI, between 18.5 and 24.9) would produce about the same improvement in overall life expectancy as the elimination of smoking (Stewart et al., 2009).
Cigarette smoking is considered to be the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, with a direct responsibility in one of five deaths each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014. On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers. Tobacco use can lead to additional health problems. Nicotine is a well- established gateway drug, capable of producing epigenetic changes that increase the likelihood of addiction to cocaine (Li et al., 2014). Tobacco’s effects are not restricted to its users. In the United States, exposure to secondhand smoke leads to 3,400 lung cancer deaths, 46,000 heart disease deaths, 430 cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), 24,500 low-birth-weight babies, 71,900 preterm deliveries, and 200,000 episodes of childhood asthma each year (WHO, 2008).
A major variable that predicts our response to stress is the sense of control. Feeling surprised by life or out of control can lead to significant stress. Some of the worst stressors are those that seem to strike randomly, such as being diagnosed with lung cancer when you never smoked (Pietrzak, Goldstein, Southwick, & Grant, 2011). These seemingly random events undercut our sense of control, countering the belief that “If I don’t smoke, I am ensuring my lungs will stay healthy.”
An obvious starting place for keeping your levels of stress low is to ask whether stressors can be eliminated. If you feel stressed about having too much to do and too little time to do it, it might be possible to reduce your workload or practice better time management skills. If money is tight, a visit to your campus’s financial aid office might provide you with solutions you had not considered. The worst possible approach is to withdraw and avoid stressors in the vain hope that they will go away. Your latest credit card statement is not going to get better magically if you ignore it. In fact, your emotional response to seeing the statement on your desk every day is likely to get a lot worse over time.
We can’t make many of these stressors go away, but a simple, one-time intervention at the beginning of the first year of college made a large difference in the academic performance and health of a group of students (Walton & Cohen, 2011). Incoming first-year students at Stanford University were randomly assigned to a control group or a social-belonging group. The social-belonging group read what they thought were the results of a survey of older students, who said that they had worried about fitting in during their first year but had grown more confident over time. Participants were asked to write an essay comparing their own first-year experiences with the survey results and then deliver a speech based on their essay to a video camera for use with future students. At no time were the participants aware that they were actually experiencing a “treatment” designed to make them see the social stressors of college life as typical of all students and of short duration.
Regardless of the identity of a stressor, once you appraise a stimulus as a danger, you initiate Selye’s GAS. The first stage, the alarm stage, is accompanied by a coordinated reaction including physical, cognitive, and behavioral responses to perceived danger. Imagine for a moment that one of your ancient ancestors was out hunting and suddenly found himself face to face with a hungry lion. Physically, the autonomic nervous system prepared your ancestor for fight or flight. The brainstem, described in Chapter 4, initiated the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which increased vigilance and fear. Cognitively, your ancestor accessed his memory for information about lions, which he hoped would include ideas about how similar situations were handled in the past. Behaviorally, your ancestor carried out his plan for escape. We assume that given your presence today, your ancestor was successful.
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Although psychologists typically discuss fight or flight as the common response to stressors, an alternate response has been suggested that might be more typical of women’s responses to stressors (Taylor, 2006). Noting that from an evolutionary standpoint, a mother with small children is unlikely to find either fight or flight easy to do, Taylor (2006) suggested that women are more likely to tend and befriend in response to stressors. Soothing frightened children, hiding, and forming social alliances for further protection might be more effective strategies.
The Diem government responded by accelerating the arrest of suspected rebels and their supporters, including those who accepted land distributed by the Viet Minh. The government also initiated the Rural Community Development Program, a “pacification” program designed to resettle villagers into “safe” Agrovilles, thus enabling the government to maintain surveillance over villages. The program incited more resistance than the land transfer program, as it forced peasants to abandon their homes, cultivated fields, and ancestral graves in exchange for inadequate housing and plots in the Agrovilles.
The adrenal cortex is controlled by the hypothalamus & the pituitary gland which are loctaed in the brain.
Sends messages via the brainstem to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
Activates the adrenal medulla to release adrenaline + noradrenaline hormone
Vital organs are prepared 'Fight or Flight' response
Parasympathetic System activated
Body returns to a
Pituitary - Adrenal System
Situitation is interpreted as stressful
Hypothalamus is triggered to release Cortigo-Trophin Releasing Factor - or CRF - which travels to the pituitary gland.
CRF causes the pituitary gland to release ACTH into the bloodstream.
ACTH travels to the Adrenal Cortex which stimulates the release of Cortisol.
Cortisol has many effects on the body which can be +ve or -ve including lower sensitivity to pain and lower bone density.
Levels of Cortisol are regulated by the Hypothalamus & the Pituitary Gland.
When levels of Cortisol rise above a certain level, CRF & ACTH levels are reduced.
Body Returns to normal
Stress - Related Illnesses...
There are illnesses which can be caused by stress.
In contrast, many of the stressors we face in modern living are not brief, and as a result, we are fairly constantly experiencing Selye’s resistance phase, which combines stress and coping. You might be worried about finding a job after you graduate from college, which might be years away. Any long-term, chronic stress has the potential to affect health in negative ways. Not only does responding to stress require large amounts of energy, but while in the resistance stage, you do a less efficient job of storing nutrients and giving your body the rest and repair it needs. Improved understanding of the relationships between stress and health can guide our quest for physical and psychological well-being.
Stress puts the cardiovascular system at risk by affecting the ability of blood vessels to expand when necessary. People whose arteries are already stiff or clogged because of age, poor fitness, or disease often suffer from high blood pressure and might be especially susceptible to heart attacks following stress. In a heart attack, interruptions of blood flow to the heart trigger death of a part of the cardiac muscle. Flexible blood vessels maintain blood flow and blood pressure and lessen the chances of a heart attack. To test the effects of stress on blood flow, healthy participants were given a standardized mental stress task in which colored buttons were to be pushed as quickly as possible in response to flashing lights of the same color (Spieker et al., 2002). For the following 45 minutes, the ability of the participants’ blood vessels to expand was reduced by a factor of 50%. A participant’s change in blood pressure in response to a stressful situation was predictive of a later diagnosis with hypertension, or high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks or stroke (Spieker et al., 2002).