Dr. Catherine Isaac, from Scarsdale Medicine Group’s Mind-Body Medicine Department, gave a presentation at The Osborn about “The Mind-Body Medicine Approach to Coping with Illness.” The presentation was part of The Osborn’s WellSpring program which includes a series of talks that are free and open to the public.
The Impact of Stress on Health
Dr. Catherine Isaac
Dr. Isaac gave an overview about the prevalence of chronic disease in our culture. “About half of the adults in this country suffer from at least one chronic illness,” she said, listing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and arthritis as the most prevalent. She has studied how the mind can affect physical function and promote health. She uses this approach in her clinical practice at the Scarsdale Medical Group.
According to Dr. Isaac, the physiological impact of stressful experiences is an increased release of hormones like adrenalin and cortisol associated with what is known as the ‘Fight-or-Flight’ response.
“Heart rate and blood pressure go up in response to actual or perceived threat,” she explained. “Prolonged or excessive stress can speed up the aging process, increase risk for heart disease, and cause sleeping difficulties, digestive problems, and depression.”
“People in stressful situations often forego healthy eating and exercise habits that help prevent cancer and other disease,” she added.
How Mind-Body Medicine Can Help
Dr. Isaac explained how relaxation techniques positively affect the nervous system. Compared to the autonomic impact on the sympathetic nervous system characterized as ‘Fight-or-Flight,’ mind-body techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system, known as ‘Rest-and-Digest.’
Her presentation illustrated the measurable impact that mindfulness techniques have on headaches, insomnia, digestion and chronic pain. Reliance on blood pressure medicine can be reduced; response to cancer treatment can be improved.
The Benefits of Meditation
Dr. Isaac noted that the pressures of continuous information flow and interactions, with the associated expectations of multitasking, causes high levels of anxiety and stress.
“Focusing attention on the present moment-to-moment experience and letting go of any one particular thought or feeling can be very helpful in reducing stress,” she said.
Dr. Isaac led the audience in a guided meditation to demonstrate the calming effect of mindfulness. She encouraged audience members to focus on the breath using slow inhalations and exhalations to achieve a sense of wellbeing.
The Osborn offers a regular guided mindfulness meditation class for both residents and staff members as part of its WellSpring program. Scarsdale Medical Group also offers meditation workshops, click here for details.
Catherine P. Isaac, MD, is board-certified in Internal Medicine. She received her undergraduate education from New York University and her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. Upon graduation, she worked under the direction of Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she oversaw the cardiac rehabilitation program and mind body consultations. She has spoken nationally on the health benefits of mind-body medicine.
The Osborn is a non-profit continuum of care community offering an integrated approach to wellness called The Osborn WellSpring. The 56-acre campus in Rye, New York, features independent living in apartments and garden homes, assisted living and memory care, skilled nursing, and both in- and outpatient rehabilitation. Osborn Home Care offers trained home health aides to care for those aging at home.