Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky

Summary

  1. How diet, stress, personality, relationships, etc. affect the mind, body and overall health
Key Takeaways
  1. Sustained and repeated stressors, in its many forms, can have debilitating effects of sustained over a long period of time by making you more vulnerable to diseases that make you sick
  2. Our bodies are very good at handling immediate, acute and physical stressors. However, our long Term and chronic stressors turn on this same response system and over time it wears down our bodies and health
  3. Our bodies and minds truly do not know the difference between actually experiencing a stressor or merely thinking about them. Be mindful of your thoughts
  4. Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones – secreted by the adrenal gland during stressful times. An excess amount of glucocorticoids have many harmful effects on your body and overall health
  5. Different genders react to stress differently. Fight/flight is typically male and tend/befriend is more associated with females
  6. You don’t turn on the same stress response or activate the same stress hormones for every stressor
  7. Chronic stress leads to cardiovascular problems as it elevates blood pressure and forces your heart and while cardiovascular system to work harder
  8. Cholesterol, even bad cholesterol, is a poor predictor of heart problems – the ratio of bad (LDL) to good (HDL) is more useful. Left ventricular growth is a much better predictor as is C-Reactive protein (CRP)
  9. Great joy and great stress have similar physiological responses in the body
  10. Insulin helps the movement and storage of food molecules into building up our body or storing for later use. However, in stressful situations you want to use and not store energy so insulin goes down and glucocorticoids help usher energy into the muscles. The body can also transfer energy from non exercising muscles to those which are being used
  11. People spend 10-20% of their energy on digestion
  12. Looking to answer whether stress makes you more susceptible to diseases you already have or are more likely to have or if it opens the door to these diseases
  13. The stress and environment of the parents during pregnancy can have major effects on the fetus which has lifelong effects. Low birth weight correlated to many metabolic and other health risks. If the mother lives in a time where food is scarce, the fetus will grow up to have a thrifty metabolism
  14. Childhood stress – absent or inattentive parents, could form the building blocks for higher chances of diseases and health risks later on
  15. There is hard evidence that what goes on in our heads, our environments as well as the people we are surrounded by have tremendous effects on our health and growth rates
  16. Active touching by loved ones is absolutely vital for an infant to grow up normal and healthy. Stressors are not only what happens to you but may also be something which is taken away or is not provided. Love is absolutely necessary
  17. High levels of stress reduce libido and testosterone. Too much exercise is very bad for the body
  18. Hyenas are wired differently as females are the dominant gender so in stressful situations, male hyenas and low ranking females become erect to show subordination
  19. Women in traditional hunter gatherer tribes have children on average only every four years and this is linked to how they nurse – just a couple minutes each sitting but throughout the day. Nipple stimulation reduces fertility and therefor constant nursing leads to less kids.
  20. Severe stress can increase the chances of miscarriage
  21. Speaks about the effects of stress on the immune system – in order to conserve energy, the immune system shuts off for a little bit but soon ramps back up again. Innate (nonspecific) and acquired immune responses help us stay healthy
  22. We have two types of pain fibers – ones that we feel very acutely and make us act quickly and those that we feel for days that can signal longer term damage
  23. Pain is extremely subjective and our belief of control over the situation has a lot to do with how much we can handle. How much pain we feel and how uncomfortable it is are two different things
  24. Acupuncture has real effects on lessening pain and the placebo effect is very strong in helping dull pain as well
  25. Short term, acute stressors are good for cognitive abilities and health but the grinding, long terms ones are potentially debilitating
  26. Stressful and emotional situations help improve memory
  27. REM is the most critical sleep cycle and we can’t survive without it. The more information we are exposed to in a day, the more REM sleep we get at night
  28. Exercising, hobbies, other outlets or simply imagining something pleasant helps reduce the effects of stress. Having a strong social network is also very important
  29. Predictable stressors much easier to deal with than when we are caught by surprise
  30. When situations differ from what’s expected, even if less stressful than an average situation, it leads to higher levels of stress. Also, stress levels rise accordingly relative to what you’re used to
  31. An unfounded sense of control can make stressful events even worse. Highly dependent upon context
  32. Depression is very common and is debilitating – simply put, it is the inability to enjoy pleasure and often a strong trigger is needed to get out of this funk. Depressed people often delude facts so that everything seems much worse than it truly is
  33. People with a strong internal locus of control are much less likely to get depressed
  34. Hostility and time pressure have a higher correlation to all diseases
  35. Repressing strong emotions takes an even bigger toll on your body than acting on those emotions. People who don’t like ambiguity and are planners, have just as high levels of glucocorticoids as severely stressed people even if they don’t tend to show it
  36. Intermittent reinforcement extremely effective. The element of surprise and control helps in this context if the effects are positive
  37. Rank can mean very different things in different species and even within different social groups in that species
  38. In corporate America, those at the top tend to give rather than get the ulcers. Middle management gets little say and their workload is more unpredictable
  39. Being poor and of a lower social economic standing is associated with higher rates of disease. How poor you feel Relative to those around you more important than your absolute level of poor. More important if you feel poor than are actually poor
  40. Income inequality in one’s immediate community raises chances of poor health
  41. There is much more variability in health, stress responses, etc in the old than in the young. Uses this fact as a motivator since there is always somebody who ages incredibly well and responds to stress in a great fashion. We can learn from these people and incorporate any tools or differentiators they might use
  42. Learned helplessness, where you believe that trying is of no use since “nothing ever works out for you,” is associated with higher levels of depression
  43. Handling stress – exercise, meditate, get more predictability and control in your life
  44. Want to be able to switch your locus of control – good things due to your effort whereas bad things were out of your control and are transient
What I got out of it
  1. Interesting read and great to remember that our thoughts have as much of an effect on our bodies, health, stress, etc. as do actual events

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.