ANNOUNCER: Dealing with life's ups and downs is often difficult and almost always stressful. While stress affects our outlook over the long term, it can also affect our immune function.
MICHAEL ROIZEN, MD: Why should stress increase your immune system disease? We don't know, but maybe it inhibits or maybe it increases cortisol levels. People have postulated that. It allows your immune system to fall down on the job. It allows your immune system to fall down on the job. Nevertheless, it increases your risk of cancer, and it increases your risk of autoimmune disease at the same time, as well as increasing your risk of infections. And of course, it increases your risk of arterial aging, heart disease, stroke, impotence, memory loss, aging of the skin, wrinkling of the skin. So stress is the greatest ager of all.
ANNOUNCER: Constant worry can also create a vicious cycle of sleep problems.
MICHAEL ROIZEN, MD: This is a very interesting cycle because if you don't sleep, you're more stressed. And if you're more stressed, you don't sleep. If you can fall asleep, but then wake up and you're stressed, you're worrying about something; it's the greatest cause of insomnia.
ANNOUNCER: But while stress may be a factor in poor health, finding a way to manage stress can actually improve your well-being. This can be done in a variety of ways. Clearing your mind is one option.
MICHAEL ROIZEN, MD: Whether it is relaxation techniques, learning how to breathe. Whether it is muscle-tensing techniques and relaxation. I'll give you one quick one; scrunch your muscles of your face as tight count to five, and then release, and you feel relaxed. Whether it's concentrating on breathing, so you close your eyes and follow your breathing. Whether it's playing a sport, so actively, that you can't think of anything else.
ANNOUNCER: Reaching out to others in times need can help.
MICHAEL ROIZEN, MD: Actually the most important thing is to be open about it and to let friends, close friends, obviously friends who won't use things against you, but find friends that you can really confide in so that you can share that and not be as stressed.
ANNOUNCER: And some experts feel that in relation to stress, laughter might actually be the best medicine.
MICHAEL ROIZEN, MD: Laughter is one of the great stress reducers. It's unexpected. It's humorous. It's enjoyment of life. You know, you can actually, in today's Internet world, you can subscribe to a laugh line, or subscribe to a joke of the day.
ANNOUNCER: Whatever the technique, dealing with stress is crucial.
MICHAEL ROIZEN, MD: Everyone is susceptible to stress. I mean all of us will have major life events. You can't avoid it. Friends die. People will sue you. Even people you trusted will sue you. You'll have financial problems. You'll have life events. We can't stop that. It's learning how to deal with it that's the key.