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Vivienne Parry investigates the biological basis of stress.
Wednesday 7th September 2005 9:00-9:30pm

When you argue with your spouse, find work a trial, what is going on in the body to produce that all too familiar feeling of stress, and what are the consequences? Is stress a necessary part of everyday life? or when it gets out of control, what are the long term effects of stress on our mental and physical well being?

A woman with an anxious expression
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Stress is estimated to cost the country 13 million working days a year, vast amounts of research funds and time are going into a variety of searches to understand this complicated syndrome and come up with effective treatments.

Vivienne Parry examines the real scientific insights and emerging hopes.

Stress is a rapidly expanding research field and a contentious modern day issue.

Most of us are well adapted to acute stress.

If a bear chases us down the street, then you want to have a good response so that you can escape.

The response becomes dangerous when you get multiple stress responses, one after the other, or experience chronic stress that goes on for weeks or years. 

New research is showing the worrying effects that our stress response, long term, can have on the immune system, cardiovascular system and even brain cells.

One of the great problems in studying the stress response in humans, is that we all react so differently to it.

Why do some people respond so badly to a stressful situation and others seem to thrive on it.

It appears that genetics may have less to do with it than previously thought, and in fact the amount of stress we are exposed to as a child, can have a profound effect on our "stress thermostat", the way we react to stress in the future.

Some people may therefore less resilient to stress, but overall as Stressed Out will examine, is a degree of stress healthy? Thrill seekers may owe their highs to stress -  so where should the balance of stress lie?

Stress Week

In Radio 4's health phone-in Check Up on Thursday 8th September, Barbara Myers will be putting your questions about stress to a studio expert.  To contact the programme call 08700-100-444 from 1.30pm - 3.30pm on the day of broadcast or e-mail via the Check Up webpage.
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