Managing Stress Can Lower Blood Pressure
"Someone with HAD has the same risk of [heart disease] as someone who has high cholesterol," he tells WebMD.
And while there are some things individuals can do by themselves to control HAD, many people will require the help of professionals. Self-help strategies may work for some common everyday stresses, but they are unlikely to have an effect on the kind of stress that causes high blood pressure and heart disease, he says.
"We assume everything is do-it-yourself," Mogadam says. "HAD is a chronic, continuing, ongoing process. No one gets HAD just from their wife or boss or job, but from a combination of many things over many years."
For that reason, the first step for the highly stressed person is to recognize that he or she has a problem requiring help. And Mogadam says doctors frequently fail to ask about the symptoms of HAD, even though many of their patients have a host of physical problems related to stress.
"Patients need to face the reality that they have a disease, and it needs intervention by an expert," Mogadam says. "The longer you dismiss it, the more entrenched it becomes."
Harvard psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD, agrees. "This is a growing and hugely underappreciated area of medicine," he tells WebMD. "Any primary care doctor and many specialists will tell you that their waiting rooms are full of people who are worried and stressed-out. There is an epidemic of toxic worry."
Echoing Mogadam, Hallowell says toxic worry is as serious, but as treatable, as high blood pressure. And just as with the treatment of high blood pressure, the goal of treating toxic worry is not to do away with it altogether, but to bring it within a normal range.
"Some worry is normal," Hallowell says. "If you don't worry at all, that's called denial."
Since many people spend 35-40 hours a week or more at their job, the workplace is naturally a prominent source of stress. In collaboration with Harvard Business School Publishing, Hallowell has crafted strategies for managing the more routine kinds of workplace worry, which left unaddressed could help make you sick.