Stress Introduction

In 1983 Time magazine declared that stress was “the epidemic of the ’80s.” What does that say about us now? In the two decades since that declaration, we’ve welcomed into our lives cell phones, beepers, the Internet, 24-hour news, and self-managed retirement plans. The work- place has been revolutionized-a few times. So have the financial markets. Shopping choices have proliferated (funny how tomatoes now come in grape, cherry, plum, and pear variations), meaning decision-making is harder than ever. Beyond our control are the more insidious concerns of terrorism, a one-world economy, and global warming. If someone asked you to describe life today in one word, it’s a pretty good bet that word wouldn’t be “calm,” “serene,” or “tranquil.”

Given its profound influence on our physical and mental well-being, stress may well be America’s No. 1 health problem. The American Institute of Stress estimates that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for illnesses caused or made worse by stress. Included in that category are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. That’s why the Live It Down Plan’s stress-reduction component is so important. If you can learn how to relax and be more sanguine about the “24-7” world we live in, you can make major progress in lowering your heart attack risk and improving your life.