The Most Common Illness In America: Anxiety

AnxietyCancer, diabetes, and heart disease are known as common illnesses in America. Turns out, there is an even sneakier illness lurking around every corner: anxiety.

More than 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety. The lists of worries people have are endless, from death of a loved one, to failure and claustrophobia.

Everyone suffers from some form of anxiety, as humans are naturally anxious creatures. Anxiety actually plays a vital role in our survival, and is a completely normal reaction to stress–an unavoidable aspect of life. Without any sense of worry we wouldn’t get anything done. Still, if your anxiety is getting out of hand it may cause serious consequences to your overall health and wellbeing.

Physical Signs Of Anxiety

Anxiety knows no boundaries, all age groups, genders, races and socio economic statuses experience anxiety. Anxiety is the uneasy feeling you get when you are concerned about a certain situation. Some people experience anxiety in their mind, while others experience the physical side effects of anxiety and often don’t even know why.

Physical reactions to anxiety may include one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth, difficulty swallowing
  • Rapid heartbeat and/or breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Achy muscles or tense muscles
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shaking or twitching

Health Problems Associated With Anxiety

It doesn’t take much to trigger anxiety in our fast-paced world full of traffic, long lines, deadlines and inflated cost of living. Still, excessive worrying can hinder your health in a number of ways. Anxiety can alter your sleeping and eating habits, as well as relationships in both work and personal life.

Anxiety leads to an overproduction of stress hormones in the body, which takes up a lot of energy and can lead to serious health consequences including:

  • Lowered immune system
  • Issues with digestion
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Early onset of coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack

Air Pollution And Anxiety

As if we don’t already have enough to worry about, recent studies reveal women who live in regions with greater air pollution have an increased risk for anxiety. (Reference) Researchers analyzed an 8-question survey answered by 70,000 women between 57 and 85-years-old. In total, around 15% of these women suffered from high levels of anxiety. Researchers took note of home addresses in relation to anxiety levels in order to factor exposure to air pollution.

One month prior to taking the survey, women exposed to small particles of air pollution were 12% more likely to have high anxiety compared to women exposed to smaller amounts of air pollution. Small particle air pollution ranked as the largest contributor to anxiety. Small particle pollution includes combustion sources such as cars and power plants.

Tips To Ease Anxiety And Maintain Your Health

If chronic anxiety goes untreated it can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as serious health problems. It’s important to note that stress itself will not make you sick, but instead it’s how you deal with stress.

Almost everything you ever spend time worrying about never happens, and that’s an actual fact… just think about it, it’s true. This thought alone can help ease anxiety you are currently feeling, and so too can the following tips:

-Get plenty of clean, fresh air. Just as the study discussed above suggests, quality air may actually decrease anxiety.

Exercise is proven to reduce anxiety considerably, plus it’s good for your health in other ways too. When you exercise your body naturally produces chemicals that help balance and offset stress hormones. Aerobic and strength exercise are proven to help relieve chronic stress.

Limit caffeine intake. If you are consuming too much caffeine you are stimulating your nervous system and triggering a rush of adrenaline that can increase feelings associated with nervousness.

-Write down your worries. If you are feeling particularly anxious take the time to sit down and write what is making you feel uneasy. This is your chance to think about what is causing stress in your life and address possible solutions.

-Quiet your mind for 20 minutes a day. Take the time to sit still and mediate for at least 20 minutes a day. Easier said than done. If you are struggling with quieting your mind seek out a class on meditation that can help you learn how to relax using breathing techniques and other coping mechanisms.

-Talk it out. Having people you trust that you can talk to, either on the phone, online or in person can be very therapeutic to reducing stress levels. Sometimes all we need to do is hear our fears out load to realize how unfounded they truly are.

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