Deadly effects of stress: A health scare revisited

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of Matthew’s health scare, when, after a long, hot day of gardening, he landed in the E.R. with severe abdominal pain.*  The events of that weekend seem almost surreal to me now.

We still don’t really know what caused the blood clot.  Tests last fall (repeated in the spring) showed no conditions, genetic or otherwise, that would predispose him to clots.  He has next-to-no lifestyle risk factors (eats well, exercises, doesn’t smoke), and his cholesterol and blood pressure have always been well within the healthy range.  There was just one “little” thing . . .

. . . STRESS!

Earlier this week, Matthew sent me a link to this Time article, which reports new findings on the link between stress and blood clotting.

We suspected extreme work-related stress may have been a factor in last summer’s blood clot, and, afterward, Matthew took some steps to reduce and better manage his stress levels.

The odd thing is that almost all of us, are, at some point in our lives fairly stressed, whether it’s due to work, home life, finances, health, personal relationships, or some combination of those factors.  We may, at times, be walking around with elevated white blood cell counts, perhaps even with low-level, early stage clots that our bodies dissolve on their own.

But we don’t all have serious blood clots that land us in the hospital for a few days, especially when we’re young and healthy.  So what made Matthew “special?”

That’s the million-dollar question, really.  Of the two of us, I would say he’s better at dealing with stress and not worrying or getting stressed in the first place.  Perhaps the chronic stress he was experiencing at work just overwhelmed his body’s ability to deal with the blood clot before it became a problem.

At any rate, it’s a good reminder that we can eat nutritious food and exercise until the cows come home, but our bodies are not just machines.  We also need to nurture our mental health.  Deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation exercises are good places to start.  This is very much a work in progress for me.

What are your tips and tricks for managing stress and relaxing?

*To be on the safe side, I’m keeping him out of the garden this weekend!  (Though the garden is, in general, one of his stress-relieving activities.)


  1. EcoCatLady says:

    Wow. I hadn’t realized that Matthew’s blood clot was stress related, that’s pretty scary. When I was younger I used to suffer from horrible nosebleeds. It wasn’t until I was nearly 30 that I made the connection and realized that they were stress-induced. The general pattern was that something would happen to make me angry, but… being that anger was one of those prohibited emotions for me, I couldn’t express it, or even really allow myself to acknowledge it. So I’d just deny and internalize it all, and my blood pressure would skyrocket… next thing you know blood would be pouring out of my nose. The scary thing is that this pattern was not something that developed as an adult… it started when I was still a toddler! (Expressing feelings was a no-no in my family.)

    For me the answer has been to work on accepting and expressing my feelings – which, is still a work in progress. Trying to “not worry” or “not get upset” about things has never worked for me because it just leads me down the path of emotional denial, which is sorta the crux of my problem to begin with. So ironically enough, my stress went down significantly when I finally decided that it was OK to be angry… and that anger wasn’t “bad,” but rather, it’s something that exists to protect me from harmful people and situations. Of course it’s all complicated by the fact that often what I’m angry about is not the situation at hand, but some long buried piece of yuck from my childhood. So sorting that all out can be quite difficult. But I haven’t had a nosebleed in many, many years… so I must be doing something right.

    Anyhow… sending my best to both you and Matthew. Now… with all that fresh in my mind, I’m gonna go do my yoga! 🙂

  2. Wow, I’m glad to hear he is ok! Scary.

    I personally think full time office jobs are a big part of many modern health problems. Even if we don’t have stressful job tasks or bad bosses, many of us get physiologically stressed just being forced to sit at a desk for 8 hours and having to be stuck in an office with a lack of view, sunshine and fresh air. Add in a long commute and you have the recipe for poor health. There are tons of studies now saying that ‘sitting is the new smoking’.

    I left “cubicle captivity” for this reason. For me personally, I would rather take a financial risk to work on my own terms, rather than risk health problems to chase a steady paycheck on someone else’s terms.

  3. I completely agree about office jobs. I sit at a desk for the better part of 8-10 hours per day five days out of most weeks. Fortunately, my commute isn’t too long, but is blerghy enough that regularly choose to drive rather than ride (hills + head indices don’t help the cause). I do keep a pair of sneakers at my desk and have decided that I’m going to start packing a lunch more often than not (writing this as I polish off my homemade veggie and rice soup) and going for a walk afterward. Even a short daily walkies will benefit the human, you know?

    A thought, from the land of baby-making-obstacles: It sounds like they did a lot of genetic/other tests on Matthew to see if he had a reason for the clot, so I though I’d just throw out some of the ones that pop up in repeat-loss fertility testing in case they missed anything (I myself have both MTHFR mutuations, but normal homocysteine levels; a girlfriend landed in the hospital during a fertility cycle with pulmonary embolisms, which is terrifying, and discovered she had either prothombin or factor v mutations, inherited from a parent). The Thrombophilia panel includes: Factor V, MTHFR, Prothrombin, Antithrombin III, Protein C, Protein S, and Lupus Anticoagulant – I’m guessing all were tested, but wanted to throw them out there just in case.

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