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    Stress and Depression

    Facts About Stress

    Stress refers to the body's response to change. Not all stress is bad. The most important thing is to manage stress properly. People often feel stress in response to job troubles, arguments with family or friends or social isolation. All people feel stress sometimes, but people react to stress in different ways. For example, some people might feel a lot of stress when driving, while others might find driving relaxing.
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    How do stress and depression affect one's health?

    Stress is known to contribute to heart problems and increase risk of death. Emotional upset, especially anger, is the "trigger" reported most often for a heart attack. People with more stress and worries also have more problems after a heart attack.

    Depression is also a risk factor for heart disease, and has been associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In fact, women who are depressed are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are not.
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    How does stress affect heart health?

    Stress can have several effects on your body. When you are under stress, your muscles tense, your blood pressure rises, and your heart beats faster, which makes your heart work harder. There is a link between developing heart disease and the factors that often cause stress. No one knows if stress directly causes heart disease, but it can change chemicals in your body that contribute to the disease.

    Stress may also contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, overeating, and lack of exercise, which can lead to heart disease. Stress is a greater concern, however, for people who already have heart disease. People with heart disease may experience chest pain when they are under stress. Also, if you have clogged arteries, your heart may not get the extra blood it needs during stress. This may lead to inadequate oxygen levels in your heart.
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    What are the symptoms of stress and depression?

    Signs of stress and depression are very similar and may include:

    Stress

    • Change in sleeping patterns, such as inability to sleep
    • Mood swings
    • Feeling angry, afraid, nervous or helpless
    • Crying frequently
    • Lack of energy
    • Unusual eating patterns, such as eating too much or a loss of appetite
    Depression
    • Inability to sleep, early-morning waking or oversleeping or a need to sleep too much
    • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
    • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
    • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
    • Decreased energy, fatigue
    • Appetite and/or weight changes
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Restlessness, irritability

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    Managing Stress or Depression

    Good health habits can have a protective effect against stress and depression. Regular physical activity relieves stress and depression and lowers the chance of heart disease.

    Taking part in a stress management program may decrease the chance of more heart problems for those who have heart disease. By attending stress management programs, you can come up with new ways of facing everyday challenges.
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    What are some ways to lower stress?

    Take a deep breathe (this helps your muscles relax).

    • Close your eyes and rest.
    • Think of relaxing things.
    • Exercise or take a walk.
    • Eat right and limit foods with fat, sugar and salt.
    • Talk to a friend about your troubles.
    • Change the things that cause you to stress.
    • Focus on the good things in your life.
    If you find yourself feeling down or "blue" for a long time, talk with your doctor about how to get help. Keep in mind that help from family and friends can help. Exercise is a great way to help reduce depression as well as stress. Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.

    Ask your health care team or doctor for additional suggestions about how to manage your stress or depression.
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    South Asians | Stress & Depression

    Some studies have shown that South Asians are less willing to seek mental health services and prefer to try and work issues out within the family. Suicide rates within the South Asian community are found to be higher than among other populations. Young South Asian women, in particular, have higher rates of suicide than South Asian males and the general U.S. population. Mental illness is not usually described as a precursor to suicide, but family conflict, depression, anxiety, and domestic violence may be contributing factors. A study of mental health professionals and patients made some conclusions about the cultural influences on depression and care outcomes of Asian Indians with depression. This study stated that religious belief in suffering as a punishment for past deeds contributes to decreased initiative to seek help from a doctor. Also, cultural stigmatization of mental illness is also a barrier to early recognition of symptoms and seeking early intervention.

    In South Asian communities, there is often a cultural stigma attached to mental illness, and this may intensify the family's difficulty in accepting a family member's condition and developing trust in the practitioner. Families tend to seek episodic help and do not see the need for continued therapy.

    There are also stressors in family relationships, gender roles and expectations that influence a person's desire and ability to seek help. Language differences, meanings and patterns may often affect communication with health care providers; and trained interpreters who have the knowledge and sensitivity to address the distinct cultural needs of South Asian patients and families are often helpful. Mental health practitioners of South Asian origin may be most knowledgeable and more trusted by South Asian patients because of their understanding of the culture and sensitivity to the cultural norms.

    A study of older South Asians found that adaptation to the surrounding culture affects well-being. Satisfaction with friendships and your cultural or ethnic identity relates to a sense of belongingness and your well-being. Religious activities also help give meaning and purpose for coping with life's events. Therefore, increasing opportunities for social interaction in Asian Indian elder communities is important to help older individuals become more adaptive and handle stress that occurs with moving to a new country late in life. (Adapted from APIAHF Health Brief August 2006)

    Go to Mental Health Myths in South Asians for more information on common mental health issues in South Asians.
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