In one of the first major studies in this field, researchers noted that people who were taking care of spouses with Alzheimer’s were dying at higher than rates than their non-caregiving peers. They were developing heart disease and cancer and other fatal diseases. I often think of Christopher Reeves' wife. Had caring for her severely disabled husband contributed to her own early death?
Researchers have also studied the link between depression and heart disease. Did you know that depression is a well-known risk factor for heart disease? Or that depression, hostility and other negative mental states increases your risk of developing diabetes?
Along these same lines, researchers have discovered that depression, stress or anxiety during pregnancy dramatically increases the risk of preterm birth. We are now beginning to understand why that would be so.
Sleep problems are another fascinating area of study. A lot of people know that sleep problems increase this risk of heart disease and diabetes. But what you might not realize is why they do.
The answer to these questions has to do with how humans respond to stress. And that is the focus of our installment. Stay tuned!