When people are diagnosed with things such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis they usually think that is what needs to be fixed. Rarely do they think past the diagnosis to see what may have caused these changes to happen in the first place. I use the word ‘changes’ in place of the word ‘illness’ because that is exactly what they are. The body has in some way changed, or adapted to a stress placed on it.
One common way our body changes or adapts is by building muscle during physical activity. When you want to make more muscle, you go to the gym and lift weights. Over time the body recognizes that to adapt to this stress it needs to make more muscle, which is why over time you can lift heavier and heavier weights. Your body has changed. Some changes are positive and others are not.
We all know the feeling that comes over us when a deer jumps out in front of the car late at night. Our heartbeat quickens, so the heart can pump more blood out to the muscles so they can either stay and fight or flee to safety. We feel the rush of adrenaline as we quickly slam on the breaks. The adrenaline acted as a messenger, rapidly alerting every cell in the body that something has happened. In order for it to get there as fast as it can our heart pumps a larger volume of blood and the blood vessels constrict, increasing our blood pressure. Our body has changed, though temporary. After about a minute, our heartbeat slows back down and the rush of adrenaline is gone.
In a sudden stressful time, this is a good response and can keep you safe. It becomes a problem when we live in a constantly stressful environment where the same strain is present on a continual basis. Our body will continue to respond with the same cascade of reactions as it does when that deer jumps out just at a lesser degree.
The question here is, what is the real problem, the high blood pressure or the stressful environment that created it? Daily high blood pressure is the body’s adaptation to a frequently stressful lifestyle, where the environment may be the true illness.
Take almost any ailment and there is likely an external stressor that caused the body to create an adaptation to the environment it was in, be it good or bad. The real key to maintaining good health is figuring out what you can do about it. As you start a new year, take a moment to look at the state of your health and see if you can increase your level of wellness by overcoming what is really keeping you sick.