THE BLOG
07/29/2016 10:07 am ET Updated Jul 30, 2017

Fear Is A National Health Threat

It has been nearly three years since my last blog on Huff Post - a time of travel, reflection, and new thinking about what makes and keeps us healthy in a time when the healthcare system seems to be confusing and failing most Americans.

I am awake to the power of the media again and wanting to share, especially in the shocking aftermath of the horrendous police-on-citizen crime and the ensuing attack on the Dallas police force and other law enforcement. What do those current events have to do with a women's health blog? EVERYTHING.

One of the key things I have learned in the past few years of interviewing women and their physicians on what makes us successful at being healthy or what helps us to survive cancer or the threat of chronic disease is this: We can't be healthy unless we feel SAFE AND PROTECTED.

When we wake up anxious and afraid for the content of our days, whether we face cancer or police brutality, heart disease or prejudice, the amygdala, the part of our brain responsible for keeping us safe, is activated. The amygdala, or "reptile brain" as it is sometimes called, floods our system with chemical messengers that slow downs those body processes not needed for survival like digestion and kicks in things like sharper vision, better hearing, and the kind of adrenaline anxiety that keeps us on our toes.

The trouble is those "fight or flight" fear hormones can kill us, causing everything from cardiovascular disease and depression to diabetes and irritable bowel system. Interesting that these health conditions affect more than half of all American, with even higher rates in minority populations.

Are you beginning to see the connection?

When we live in fear; we live with poor health. This is what is ruining America at a rapid rate. Harvard Health Watch reports 1 in 4 Americans are plagued by chronic fear and anxiety. Americans feel very vulnerable these days, especially those of middle to lower socio-economic status. The very systems designed to protect Americans are failing us: education, police, healthcare. Everyone we turn we see or hear of something that makes us fearful. The nightly news has become a fear fest; social media scrolls with flashes of apocalyptical violence; and feeling "unsafe out there" is what we teach our children from their earliest years.

True change in our country, for our body's health and for our health as safe citizens, has to come by a shift back to the tradition of POSITIVE THINKING AND LIVING, looking for the good in ourselves and others, protecting those perceived as less fortunate, and approaching each new day with hope and confidence.

I often quote the following from a wellness research blog published by the University of Minnesota: "People who live in constant fear, whether from physical dangers in their environment or threats they perceive, can become incapacitated." A nation primarily comprised of citizens suffering from chronic fear can become a sick and incapacitated one as well.

Let's work on optimism, courage, and the protect of others not just for the sake of our own good health but for the positive future of our nation.

SOURCES:
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/security/facing-fear/impact-fear