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Living a long and healthy life, free of disease, is something we all hope for.
The cards may not always be dealt that way, but research has uncovered many causes and contributors to disease that help us shuffle the deck.
That’s why we look to diet, exercise, supplemental nutrition and other lifestyle factors within our control to lower our risks for diabetes, heart disease — and the dreaded “c” word.
But there’s one factor that we often leave out — and it’s one that could increase your risk of death from cancer almost 2.5 times…
The wear and tear of stress
It’s not stress in and of itself that can increase your risk of dying from cancer. It’s what it does to your body.
“Good” stress is there to protect us. It sends signals to your body that cause production of two hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.
This leads to a rise in heart rate and blood pressure and, in turn, causes changes to almost every bodily system, including the heart, immune system, digestive system, and brain.
Cortisol “can be beneficial in some circumstances, such as when it motivates you to complete your work on time,” notes Dr. Patricia Celan, a psychiatry resident at Canada’s Dalhousie University.
In examples like that, though, cortisol usually comes back down to normal levels.
“However, if you have chronic, ongoing psychosocial stressors, that never allow you to ‘come down,’ then that can cause wear and tear on your body at a biological level,” According to Dr. Justin Xavier Moore, an epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Cancer Center.
There is a name for that “wear and tear” on the body from the cumulative effects of constant stress. It’s called allostatic load — and if yours is high, so is your risk of dying from cancer.
How stress makes cancer more deadly
Moore and other investigators examined 31 years of data collected from more than 41,000 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, between 1988 and 2019.
They were able to determine the allostatic load based on baseline biological measures of the participants using body mass, blood pressure readings, cholesterol and A1C levels, as well as measures of inflammation and kidney function.
Even after adjusting for confounding risk factors like age, social demographics like race and sex, poverty to income ratio and educational level, those with a high allostatic load were 2.4 times more likely to die from cancer than those with low allostatic loads.
“But you have to adjust for confounding factors,” Moore explains. “We know there are differences in allostatic loads based on age, race and gender.”
To that point, previous research looking at trends in allostatic load over 30 years among 50,671 individuals, found adults aged 40 and older had greater than a 100% increased risk of high allostatic load when compared to adults under 30. Black and Latino adults had an increased risk of high allostatic load when compared with their white counterparts regardless of the time period.
“That means that if you were to have two people of the same age, if one of those people had high allostatic load, they are 28 percent more likely to die from cancer,” says Dr. Moore.
Even after adjusting for demographic factors, people with lifelong stress still had a 21 percent higher risk of cancer death. And even those who had smoked, had previous cancer or heart failure diagnoses were at 14 percent greater risk of cancer death.
The moral of the story: Make handling stress a priority
This research just gives us one more thing to add to the already lengthy list of ways that stress kills.
Luckily, there’s a lot we can do to keep ourselves from succumbing to chronic stress.
Stress-reducing supplements like ashwagandha can control cortisol levels and soothe the body and mind naturally.
Orange essential oil has been found to regulate the immune system and relieve the effects of chronic stress.
It’s been proven time and again that the Mediterranean diet is the ultimate diet for stress management.
Yoga trains the nervous system to return to a balanced state after being faced with a stressful situation. You don’t need to learn all kinds of complicated poses, either. Find a local yoga teacher or studio, or a self-study video, and learn the basics.
Meditation. Again, nothing complicated. Here, Dr. Isaac Eliaz explains how to start a simple meditation practice that will benefit both your physical and mental health.
Editor’s note: Discover how to live a cancer prevention lifestyle — using foods, vitamins, minerals and herbs — as well as little-known therapies allowed in other countries but denied to you by American mainstream medicine. Click here to discover Surviving Cancer! A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Causes, Treatments and Big Business Behind Medicine’s Most Frightening Diagnosis!
Exploring racial disparities on the association between allostatic load and cancer mortality: A retrospective cohort analysis of NHANES, 1988 through 2019 — Science Direct High Cortisol Symptoms: What Do They Mean? — Healthline