Healthy Focus

Feeling Overwhelmed? You’re Not Alone

Dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, meeting a deadline at the office, taking care of your parents and/or children, preparing for the holidays, financial strain. 2020 has been a year to remember, and let’s face it, we’re all a little (or very) stressed! But now more than ever, it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves, and seek help if we need it.

Over time, stress can trigger a variety of health problems:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Decreased immune defenses
  • Cancer
  • Stomach problems
  • Diminished brain functioning

Effects of stress overload can include:

  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Under or overeating
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Restlessness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Chest pain
  • Tobacco use
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or anger
  • Social withdrawal
  • Change in libido
  • Sadness or depression
  • Digestion issues
  • Sleep problems

There are stress management strategies you can explore to help reduce stress including:

  • Connecting with others – spend time with family and friends, which may mean video chats, texting or phone calls during the pandemic.
  • Staying positive – give yourself a pep talk.
  • Getting physically active – take a walk or a bike ride.
  • Helping others – volunteer.
  • Getting enough Zzzzz – 7 to 9 hours is recommended.
  • Eating well – don’t forget your fruits and veggies.
  • Taking care of your spirit – meditate or try yoga.
  • Seeking professional help if you need it.

For some people, stress can lead to serious mental health problems such as depression, which is more than just a rough patch that you can snap out of. Also known as major depression, major depressive disorder and clinical depression, it’s a serious condition that impacts every facet of your world including your social life, relationships, career, physical and overall self-worth and purpose.

Screenings are often the first step in getting help and should be a routine part of your healthcare.

Those suffering from depression often experience some of these key symptoms:

  • A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Sleeping too little, early morning awakening or sleeping too much
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Women are about twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. This two-to-one difference persists across racial, ethnic and economic divides. This gender difference in rates of depression is found in most countries around the world. There are also biological, hormonal and psychological causes of depression that are specific to women:

  • Premenstrual problems
  • Pregnancy and fertility
  • Postpartum depression
  • Perimenopause and menopause
  • Focusing on and rehashing negative feelings
  • Stress
  • Body image issues

With a few simple lifestyle changes, such as the support of friends and family, avoiding the urge to isolate yourself, exercising, getting in some sun time, eating healthy and relaxation techniques, you can help lessen your feelings of depression. If your symptoms persist, you may want to discuss medication, psychological counseling or other treatment options with your doctor.

Here are some of the physical symptoms of stress:

Brain and Nerves
Headaches, feelings of despair, lack of energy, sadness, nervousness, anger, irritability, increased or decreased eating, trouble concentrating, memory problems, trouble sleeping, mental health problems (such as panic attacks, anxiety disorders and depression)

Acne and other skin problems

Muscles and Joints
Muscle aches and tension (especially in the neck, shoulders and back), increased risk of reduced bone density

Faster heartbeat, rise in blood pressure, increased risk of high cholesterol and heart attack

Nausea, stomach pain, heartburn, weight gain

Increased risk of diabetes

Diarrhea, constipation and other digestive problems

Reproductive System
For women – irregular or more painful periods, reduced sexual desire. For men – impotence, lower sperm production, reduced sexual desire

Immune System
Lowered ability to fight or recover from illness

Handling Stress: Women Vs. Men
Stress management is very different for men and women. Hormones are one of the most important reasons why the reaction to a stressful situation differs. When stressed, both genders secrete the hormone oxytocin, which promotes nurturing and relaxing emotions, but in women the levels are higher.

Women also tend to seek support to talk out what is bothering them while men more often seek an escape activity, such as golf, as a relaxing diversion from their stress.

If you are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, you don’t have to suffer alone, and treatment is available. Lake Haven Behavioral Health Center at Henry County Medical Center offers individualized care in a warm, caring atmosphere.

To make a referral or learn more about the psychiatric services and programs, call 731 644-8420 or 1-800-489-1203.

In an Emergency

If you or someone you know is experiencing severe depression and/or may be suicidal, these 24-hour hotlines can offer immediate assistance:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Veterans Crisis Line (for military veterans and their families and friends)
1-800-273-8255, press 1

911 (for potentially life-threatening situations)

What Every Woman Needs to Know About P.A.D. and Heart Disease

You’ve no doubt heard of heart attacks and strokes, but what about peripheral arterial disease? If you’re drawing a blank, you’re not alone. Although P.A.D, which occurs when arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, affects as many as 10 million Americans a year, it commonly goes undiagnosed. And it’s often overlooked as a leading indicator of heart attack, stroke and amputation: People who suffer from P.A.D. are four to five times more at risk for heart attack or stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

P.A.D. can fall under the radar because its symptoms—such as muscle pain in the legs while walking—are not life-threatening, and it can be treated, say experts. But they caution that many times, the disease is not isolated in the legs.

People who have symptoms of P.A.D. really need to focus on their heart and corroded arteries, to make sure they are not a ticking time bomb for heart attacks or strokes.

What to Look For

The most classic early symptom of P.A.D. is pain in the calves or thighs, usually experienced during physical activity because blood flow is reduced to the muscle group. As the condition worsens and the blood supply to the legs decreases, pain may occur even when you’re at rest, your legs could become cold, numb or tingling, toes could turn black, and wounds on the leg could fail to heal.

Risk Factors

P.A.D. can affect people with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, as well as those who smoke and those with a family history of arterial disease. You can help control your risk factors by not smoking, getting plenty of exercise, and controlling cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes through diet and medication.

P.A.D. also tends to be more common among older people. The prevalence of P.A.D. increases tenfold in men aged 65 to 74 compared with 30- to 34-year-old men; for women, there is a twentyfold increase among the older age group, according to the AHA.

Getting a Diagnosis

To check for P.A.D., your primary care physician can perform simple tests to determine the circulation in your legs and should be able to feel a pulse in your groin, knees and feet. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist to check the pulses in your legs or to take an ultrasound of your legs, both non-invasive procedures, say experts. In addition, MRIs, CT scans and angiograms can be helpful diagnostic tools.

Treatment Options

When P.A.D. goes untreated, half of the cases will remain stable. The other half will progress, however, to artery blockages that can lead to gangrene and, often, amputation.

For most P.A.D. patients, opening the veins with simple treatments such as ballooning or putting in a stent can be effective, along with medications like aspirin, statins or beta-blockers. Bypass surgery is usually a last resort.

Even when an arterial blockage in the leg is fixed, experts say that most, patients still need to be evaluated by a physician regularly for possible recurrences and for other artery blockages. That’s because people who have P.A.D. badly enough to cause symptoms often die of heart attacks and strokes.

Take Action to Prevent P.A.D.

  1. Quit smoking. Smokers have four times the risk of developing P.A.D. as do non-smokers.
  2. Exercise regularly to prevent artery blockages. Simple walking regimens and leg exercises can quickly decrease potential symptoms of P.A.D.
  3. Control cholesterol through low-fat diet and/or medication.
  4. Keep high blood pressure and diabetes under control through diet and medication.

Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure you are current with your tests and screenings. If you haven’t had your annual physical this year, it’s not too late! To make an appointment for a check-up, please call (800) 246-2508 or find a physician here.