Interview with Professor Robert Sapolsky

Robert Sapolsky is an American biologist and author. He is currently professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and by courtesy, Neurosurgery, at Stanford University. As a neuroendocrinologist, he has focused his research on issues of stress and neuronal degeneration, as well as on the possibilities of gene therapy strategies for protecting susceptible neurons from disease. His popular book, Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers describes the effects of stress on thye human body and is one of those ‘must-reads’ for all. I was lucky enough to pose some commonly asked questions for Prof Sapolsky; his replies are worth noting!

Q. What do you feel is the main adverse effect stress has on the human body?
A. “Well, there’s a number of particularly vulnerable outposts. Probably the most frequent adverse effects are hypertension, sleep disruption, disruption in concentration, depression, increased incidence of colds, sexual dysfunction.”

Q. What would be your 3 top tips to help someone suffering from stress?
A. “I’d say, 1) as per the cliche, distinguish between stressors you can and can’t control and, in the case of the former, find ways to increase the sense of control;  2) when the stressor is uncontrollable, at least strive for predictive information about when it is coming, how long it is going to last, and how bad it will be;  3) increase the amount of social support you get and give. Mind you, all this is said by someone who mostly thinks about stressed rats and neurons growing in Petrie dishes.”

Q. Do you feel that diet can help someone suffering from stress since many people report using B-vitamins can help them manage better?
A. “Well, it can certainly head off some of the adverse effect (e.g., large amounts of antioxidants delaying the emergence of some of the long-term pathologies of stress). What’s even clearer is that a bad diet is particularly bad news in the context of stress. For example, a combination of a high fat diet plus chronic psychosocial stress causes a synergistic increase in atherosclerosis in monkeys.”

There you have it… from experts mouth! Roberts knowledge of the biological effects of stress are beyond question and as we move into an ever more stressful existence we have to listen and learn how to off set its ravages on our bodies.

Check out the video clip below to learn more about stress and its biological effects…

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