All Posts

Healthful Living in a Stressed-Out Anxious World

There are so many drivers of stress, and it literally becomes a new normal in navigating life for the majority of individuals. While some people manage stressors better than others, it’s concerning that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health condition in the U.S., and a leading cause of disability.1

According to the Centers of Disease Control, in the year following the 2020 pandemic, documented symptoms of anxiety and depressive symptoms rose sharply and was most notable among adults aged 18 – 29. 

May is mental health awareness month.  I’ve grown up aware of that.  In my mother’s large family of siblings and subsequent cousins of mine, a surprising percentage have suffered from various types of mental health issues.  I’ve been motivated as an adult to incorporate healthful living amidst a lot of adverse and stressful events of my own, in an effort to protect my mind and emotional state.

As a practicing dental hygienist, I’ve also been motivated to share healthful living strategies with patients as I listen to them recount their own stressors.  And, as any dental professional reading this knows – chronic stress increases the risk of inflammatory conditions emerging in the oral cavity.   So, being proactive in our education to our patients, and applying healthful living personally is a worthy investment.

Research on this topic led me to an incredibly valuable article published in 2018 that has helped shape what I personally incorporate and what I share with patients.  The title of the article paints a picture: “Lifestyle Medicine: A Brief Review of Its Dramatic Impact on Health and Survival”2.  In other words, our lifestyle choices can dramatically influence our health and longevity.  And not surprisingly, one of the four tenants of Lifestyle Medicine is emotional resilience.  The other three include healthy eating, healthy weight, and active living.   

What are some take-away messages related to healthful living that incorporate Lifestyle Medicine?  

  1. What we eat matters.  A lot.  Data published in 2023 analyzing dietary choices of over 100,000 people over a 7-year period reveals that a dietary pattern characterized by high intakes of chocolate and confectionery, butter, high-fat cheese, added sugars, along with low intakes of fresh fruit and vegetables, is associated with a higher risk of depressive and anxiety symptoms.3 

  2. The evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in managing chronic disease is compelling for Type II diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, obesity, coronary heart disease, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and depression.4  Even though physicians may fail to therapeutically include active living as a prescription for managing and even preventing chronic diseases; the evidence should motivate us to move consistently.

  3. An 11-year study following over 25,000 men and women confirms symptoms of anxiety and depression were associated with larger weight change, and an increased cumulative incidence of obesity in both men and women. In other words, as one suffers from chronic anxiety and/or depression related to life stressors, body mass index often suffers as well.5

  4. Emotional resilience refers to one’s ability to respond to an adverse situation, and more importantly to be able to return to a “pre-event” baseline state of health.  Not surprisingly, factors that impair one’s emotional resilience include depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Management of mental health stressors today provides ammunition to bounce back from future adversities.

Healthful living strategies aren’t easy to incorporate but the impact can be dramatic when they become a part of your lifestyle.  It requires deliberate living through healthy eating choices, active living with consistent exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and striving to manage stressors in an effort to protect one’s emotional resilience.  Mental health awareness month is the perfect opportunity to gain ground in healthful living, and to encourage your patients to pursue the same. 

 

1 Garakani A, Murrough JW, Freire RC, Thom RP, Larkin K, Buono FD, Iosifescu DV. Pharmacotherapy of Anxiety Disorders: Current and Emerging Treatment Options. Front Psychiatry. 2020 Dec 23;11:595584. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.595584. PMID: 33424664; PMCID: PMC7786299.

2 Bodai, B. I., Nakata, T. E., Wong, W. T., Clark, D. R., Lawenda, S., Tsou, C., ... & Campbell, T. M. (2018). Lifestyle medicine: a brief review of its dramatic impact on health and survival. The Permanente Journal, 22.

3 Chen H, Cao Z, Hou Y, Yang H, Wang X, Xu C. The associations of dietary patterns with depressive and anxiety symptoms: a prospective study. BMC Med. 2023 Aug 15;21(1):307. doi: 10.1186/s12916-023-03019-x. PMID: 37580669; PMCID: PMC10426158.

4 Pedersen, B.K. and Saltin, B. (2006), Evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in chronic disease. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 16: 3-63. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2006.00520.x

5 Brumpton, B., Langhammer, A., Romundstad, P. et al. The associations of anxiety and depression symptoms with weight change and incident obesity: The HUNT Study. Int J Obes 37, 1268–1274 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2012.204



 

Karen Davis, RDH
Karen Davis, RDH
Karen Davis is owner of Cutting Edge Concepts, an international continuing education company. She practices dental hygiene in Dallas, Texas. Dentistry Today has recognized Karen as a “Top Clinician in Continuing Education” since 2006. Karen can be reached at Karen@karendavis.net.

Related Posts

Stress Free Implant Crown Screw Access Hole

The beginnings of my implant journey I have been surgically placing and restoring dental implants for over twenty years. During this time, the industry has exploded with new inventions and materials, and I have adapted to these drastic changes with improved workflows and techniques.

Healthful Living in a Stressed-Out Anxious World

There are so many drivers of stress, and it literally becomes a new normal in navigating life for the majority of individuals. While some people manage stressors better than others, it’s concerning that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health condition in the U.S., and a leading cause of disability.1

Women in Dentistry: Beyond the Chair

As a woman practicing in dentistry, you have the added pressure to always be extraordinary, to live up to the expectations set by those before you. Expectations that were built in a world in which you were not always granted a seat at the table, nor could you always freely share your voice. So much progress has been made since then as women have paved their own pathway through the dental field. We, at Tokuyama Dental America, are incredibly proud of all the women in dentistry and especially those that we have the pleasure of working with. To best honor their work and unique experiences, we asked a few key opinion leaders to share their story, along with the challenges they face in a once male-dominated profession.