The story I’m about to tell you may sound familiar. It involves a health issue I see every day, but one that is seldom addressed. That issue is stress.
Bill and Sandy (whose names I’ve changed out of respect for their privacy) are a perfect example. In their early 60s, they had been my patients for more than 10 years. They had always been in good health. So, when they came to see me one day not long ago, I was a bit shocked to see them both looking older and far less robust than on their previous visit.
“How have you been?” I asked Sandy.
“You’ll be sorry you asked,” she replied. “We’re either too tired to do anything or too sick — it’s been one cold after another for months. And I keep gaining weight — mostly around my waist, or what used to be my waist. I’m sure the cookies don’t help, but I can’t stay away from them. Plus, my memory is just shot — some days I’m afraid it’s early Alzheimer’s. And Bill’s in even worse shape than I am.”
Clearly, it was time to sit down with Bill and Sandy for a heart-to-heart chat. So, after the examinations, we talked in my office. Before long, the real issue became apparent. Bill and Sandy were completely stressed out. In addition to worrying about the economy, fluctuating finances, and their grown children’s changing fortunes, they were concerned about the increasing number of health issues they were experiencing. No wonder they were suffering; their stress was completely out of control.
But when I mentioned the “S” word, Bill and Sandy both shook their heads. “No, it can’t be stress,” Bill told me. “We don’t have high-risk jobs, like air traffic controller or CEO of some big company. We’re just regular people.”