Each week, OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescott opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from OMRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Adam Cohen.
This year’s election really took it out of me. Lost sleep. Stress eating. And – maybe? – additional gray hairs. I know I’m not alone in feeling anxiety over the culmination of a long, hard-fought campaign. This can’t be good for us, can it?
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
No, losing sleep and using food (presumably of the “junk” variety) to soothe yourself are not healthy.
Research has linked inadequate sleep to an almost endless list of poor health outcomes: decreased immunity; heart attacks; hypertension; diabetes; impairment of cognition and memory; and depression, to name a few.
Too little sleep has also been associated with weight gain. Of course, people who stay up longer have more time to snack. Also, levels of leptin, a hormone that tells the brain you’ve eaten enough, are lower in the sleep-deprived while levels of ghrelin, which spurs appetite, increase.
In addition to interfering with sleep (which, as you can see, comes with its own pitfalls), stress can independently trigger a variety of ills. This is largely because stress causes the release of cortisol, a hormone responsible for our body’s fight-or-flight response.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels have been tied to an increased risk of serious health problems that overlap quite a bit with those linked to sleep deprivation: depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, fertility issues, high blood pressure, heart attack, dementia and stroke. (A study published earlier this year also found that revved-up cortisol levels turned hair gray, at least in lab mice.)
It’s probably no coincidence that you’re feeling all this in the wake of Election Day. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that in the two days following the 2016 presidential election, rates of heart attack and stroke increased by 67% and 59% when compared to those same two days the preceding week.
Fortunately, it sounds like you made it through okay, albeit a bit sleepier, grayer and full of processed foods.
Now might be a good time for a politics detox. Turn off cable news, put down your phone, and head out for a walk. And remind yourself that we won’t do this again until 2024.