Cumulative Stress Assessment
Stress means different things to different people. People recognize stress as a state of having too much expected of them, of being under pressure or strain, or of being barely able to cope with some external demand which is both excessive and prolonged. All of the symptoms carry the connotation of unreasonable demands being placed on the individual in an emotional, mental or psychological sense. A similar concept underlies the term stress in the medical sciences; a force exerted on a subject that, if not resisted, will damage or destroy it.
Stressors can be physical, mental or both. Physical stress is caused by long-term exposure to negative factors such as an irregular lifestyle, physical overload, environmental toxicity, cigarette/alcohol/drug use, improper diets, etc.
Mental stress can be caused by factors such as insecurity, negative emotions, mental overload, confusion, rejection on a social level, family problems, boredom, low self-esteem, etc.
Physical and mental stress each elicits physiological responses that are mediated through the autonomic nervous system. This autonomic nervous system (ANS) is both our major defense against stress and the system that demonstrates the principal symptomatic manifestation of stress in its early stages. The autonomic nervous system is conventionally divided into two parts in a yin/yang balance: the sympathetic, which activates organs, getting them ready to cope with exercise or other physical stress; and the parasympathetic, which controls background "housekeeping" functions in the body. The balance between these two systems is an indicator of the body's reaction to external and internal demands.
A dramatic advance in the study of stress responses has been the mathematical analyses of biological rhythms which have allowed us a window to the working of these autonomic systems. The objective of VitalScan is to promote better stress coping strategies for individuals by informing them how to gain control of their ANS and their body's stress response while building stress reserves through appropriate lifestyle changes.
Now, more than ever, we are able to measure and draw conclusions about the immediate impact of stress on the body as well as its reserve capacity for coping with accumulated stress. Stress is present in humans in two major ways: momentary stress and cumulative stress. Momentary stress appears regularly in everyday life, during work and even while sleeping. Reactions to this stress are determined by both physical and physiological vitality and can generate tension, irritation, and anger as well as physical symptoms. The prolonged accumulation of momentary stress leads to an increase in long-term cumulative stress and impact on overall health.
It is now widely accepted in the scientific and medical communities that chronic stress can have a detrimental affect on mental and physical well being. Since stress is an inescapable consequence of everyday living and everyday social interaction, it is essential to quantify stress levels and to identify individuals who are vulnerable to ill health due to compromise of stress reserves.
The Stress and Health Assessment reveals personal stress reaction and enables early intervention for stress resolution. HRV analysis provides an objective status of functional and tensional disturbance of the human body and indicates the following:
* Imbalance of human body caused by accumulated stress
* Self-regulation capability against stress
* Reactive capability against stress
Overall results of the assessment are analyzed and presented in clear reports which leave no ambiguity as to where actions must be taken. Speculations are turned into facts which enable individuals to quickly and efficiently adjust lifestyles, work activity and daily choices in order to combat stress effectively.
* Testing of the stress that affects the human body objectively;
* Quantifying stress into physical stress and mental stress;
* Effective diagnosis of psychosomatic functional illness and monitoring therapeutic effectiveness;
* Visualizing all minute functional changes for the supplemental assistance with therapeutic direction;
* Completing a formatted measurement process automatically;
* Measuring in a noninvasive convenient standing and seated position;
* Maximized evaluation convenience for patients;
Many people consider stress to be exclusively mental wherein excessive pressures, anxieties and worrying lead to feeling overburdened and under strain. However, stress includes all physical, emotional, mental, chemical and biochemical deviations from homeostasis (physiological stability). Physical stress in humans arises as a result of our body's response to physical stressors like work, noise, cold, illness, or exercise. Other lifestyle or social factors like smoking, immobility, heavy drinking and lack of sleep, for example, produce considerable stress in the body.
Cumulative physical stress is the sum total amount of stressors including their severity and how long they persist for. This cumulative stress load can have an extreme impact on the overall health parameter. Natural or lifestyle-induced changes in the activity of the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems can tell us about the physiological health of the individual, how much stress they are experiencing and how much reserve they maintain.
Autonomic nervous system (ANS) is both our major defense against stress and the system that demonstrates the principal symptomatic manifestation of stress in its early stages. The introduction of HRV analysis revolutionized ANS assessment and opened new doors for its theoretical application. Making practical use of this important scientific discovery, however, required deriving a quantitative relationship between SNS and PSNS.
When the total amount of stress is greater than your body can adequately compensate for, the signs and symptoms of stress begin to appear. Signs of physical stress can include muscle tension, shallow breathing, hypertension and a rapid heart beat which when left untreated can result in a number of ailments including heart disease, ulcers, asthma and rheumatism. Chronic stress produces a further change in body chemistry.
The VitalScan Physical Stress Assessment reveals the level of physical stress in the body which has accumulated over a continuous period of time. The physical stress level is calculated primarily on the basis of the HRV parameters related to the frequency distribution of the cardiointervals. Knowledge of stress levels can enable patients to make lifestyle and social changes to alleviate high stress thereby reducing health risks, improving overall conditions and promoting prevention.
VitalScan provides the accurate measurement of stress, stress responses and reserves to cope with stress. This will help us to develop treatments for stress reduction to avoid its damaging effects and to increase our stress resisting reserves.
Most people are abundantly familiar with mental stress as modern life tends to generate copious amounts of it. People recognize a state of having too much expected of them, of being under pressure or strain, of being barely able to cope with some external demand which is both excessive and prolonged. It has a number of synonyms, but they all carry the connotation of unreasonable demands being placed on the individual in an emotional, mental or psychological sense. In short, psychological or mental stress refers to the emotional and physiological reactions experienced when an individual confronts a situation in which the demands go beyond their coping resources.
Mental stress can manifest itself in behavioral, cognitive or emotional symptoms which may range from poor judgment to moodiness to depression. If left unchecked, mental stress can accumulate thereby increasing its impact on overall health and decreasing the body's ability to cope and increasing the risk of further complications to both the mental and physical wellbeing. Research indicates that mental stress is intimately linked to illness and disease. Constant and cumulative stress can compromise the immune system and mental wellbeing which increases susceptibility, decreases the strength of the body's natural defenses and affects thought processes.
Work is perhaps the greatest contributor to stress in our lives. Job insecurity and rising unemployment have contributed greatly to high stress rates and severe burnout among workers. The problem is primarily attributed to the pressures of mastering the information technology revolution, increased productivity demands, anxiety surrounding downsizing, the pressure to perform and lack of job security. Many employers are now increasingly aware of the costs and risks associated with workplace stress. There is the human and financial cost of workplace stress, as measured in absenteeism and lost productivity as well as the threat of legal action which may or may not be covered under the terms and conditions of their insurance policy.
The difficulty in assessing job strain is related to the multiplicity of factors that can affect it (ie. both perceived and objective stressors, the potential moderating effects of social support, personality factors, non-work factors, level of physical health and demographic measures). Whilst all of these factors are important, trying to quantify any of them or their level of impact on the individual is very difficult. Measurement of HRV by the VitalScan system now makes this possible. VitalScan, because it is based on a physiological assessment of the body's key regulatory systems, is able to provide an index of physiological strain and more importantly identify individuals who are vulnerable to work stress and burnout due to lack of reserves for coping efficiently.
The VitalScan Mental Stress Assessment reveals the level of mental stress in the body which has accumulated over a continuous period of time. The mental stress level is calculated primarily on the basis of the HRV parameters related to the frequency distribution of the cardiointervals from the histogram (these are the time-based parameters of HRV). Knowledge of stress levels can enable patients (and employers, where applicable) to make lifestyle, social and workplace changes to alleviate high stress thereby reducing health risks, improving overall conditions and promoting prevention.
While aging is a universal experience of living organisms, rates of aging are not uniform. Chronological age is rarely an accurate index of health, fitness and the ability to perform effectively. A more precise method of describing age and assaying the effects of illness is of great value in diagnosis and treatment.
Consequently, redefining age in terms of physiological, mental and emotional health (i.e. functional age) results in a more accurate, all-encompassing calculation. Functional age refers to an individual's functional fitness level, compared to others of his or her same chronological age and sex.
According to the contemporary medical philosophy, an increased functional age can impede the progress of dangerous diseases. Insight into functional age can provide important information regarding an individual's capacities and limitations, the health of one's cardiovascular system and the potential for dangerous disease development.
Functional age is assessed based upon the equilibrium that exists between the sympathetic and the parasympathic branches of the autonomic nervous system. Increased functional age is reflective of higher sympathetic activity and vice versa. VitalScan calculates functional age by comparing individual data with that of over 50,000 test subjects of predefined age groups. The resulting value is reliable, accurate and relevant.
Are The Increased Levels Of Accumulated Physical And Mental Stress Dangerous?
Stress is present in daily life; however, the pressures of modern lifestyles, habits and work environments can exacerbate the physiological reactions of stress on the body. Left untreated, chronic stress has been linked to the onset and development of a multitude of physical, behavioral and mental ailments including diabetes, depression, migraines, hypertension, oncological formations, gastric ulcers, heart pathology and more.
As more and more studies continue to show significant linkages between cumulative stress and serious illness, like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, the necessity for precise, frequent and mandatory health risk assessments becomes increasingly apparent. The VitalScan accumulated stress assessment addresses this need for preventative healthcare by facilitating accurate medical examinations for individuals or groups.
While the dangers of cumulative stress are abundant, they are predictable and avoidable if momentary stress is properly addressed and managed. Using VitalScan assessments, momentary and cumulative stress levels can be accurately quantified and treatment can commence. Lifestyle rehabilitation (i.e. quitting smoking), emotional self-management (i.e. anger management programs), proper relaxation (i.e. breathing techniques) and other interventions can produce dramatic improvements in overall health thereby alleviating the effects of stress and reducing the risk of associated ailments.
The accumulated stress assessment for individuals younger than 18 and older than 70 is less precise due to the substantial variances within these groups and the smaller number of examined individuals. In such cases, the stress result of the patient can be compared with historical values (as a means for self-control). When a child is tested, for example, an adapted algorithm must be used for calculation due to the irregular heart beat of children.
For individuals using tranquilizers or beta-blockers the day of or the day prior to the examination, values of the stress coefficients can be accurately approximated but not precisely determined. Medications substantially influence some of the parameters of the stress test algorithm.
Everyone has a basic (chronic) value of accumulated stress. This value can be influenced during short-term stress-generating factors (during a few hours or days). In order to exclude this effect, the examination must be repeated in two or three days. The calculated stress values of an individual may exhibit a slight variation but typically they remain constant if the test procedure is administered as directed (10 minutes of rest and 9 minutes test).