“Stress: Portrait of a Killer” by John Heminway and Robert M. Sapolsky is a well-written book about the effect of stress on our health. Severe chronic exposure to stress impairs our ability to grow, reproduce, and digest food. These effects may seem paradoxical to our modern lifestyles, but they are quite real. The book focuses on the harmful effects of chronic stress and the resulting psychological problems that result.
Heminway, John and Robert M Sapolsky, Stress: Portrait of a Killer
In Stress Portrait of a Killer, Nobel Prize winner Robert M Sapolsky and Stanford University neurobiologist John Heminway explain how chronic stress affects human behavior. The book, a National Geographic Special, also features an hour-long co-production by Stanford University and National Geographic Television. The book was made available exclusively for public television. It has won a number of awards, including a Peabody Award and a duPont-Columbia Award.
Severe chronic exposure to stress
Severe chronic exposure to stress is incredibly dangerous to our health. Not only does it impair our immune system, it can also cause our body to malfunction. The effects of chronic stress can be felt even sooner. Stress can have direct and indirect effects on our health, as it can be linked with bad habits. These habits include eating poorly, not exercising, and not sleeping enough. While stress-induced immune suppression is not harmful in the short-term, it can be deadly when repeated, leaving the body susceptible to disease and infection.
Earlier studies have demonstrated that chronic exposure to stress can cause health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Researchers have determined that chronic exposure to stress can alter the functioning of the amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of the brain that help us remember things. The brain releases stress hormones during the first stage, and continues to adapt as it gets more difficult to avoid or cope with the threat. The body produces more glucose and blood pressure to maintain energy, but glucose and blood pressure decrease during the next two stages, known as exhaustion and collapse. When organs malfunction, the body suffers from illness, and eventually dies.
When we are stressed, our immune systems are forced to respond in a way that will help us survive in the long run. In early human evolution, this kind of reaction kept us safe from hungry lions, but in modern times, we tend to perceive low levels of danger and trigger a long-term stress response that can harm our health. Whether it’s a daily commute, financial strain, relationship disagreements, or taking care of an ailing loved one, stress is a killer.