Your Life, Your Health: Racism and prejudice, major contributors to poor health

James Holly, M.D.

As we continue to celebrate “Black History Month” each February, it is important that this not just be a date on the calendar but that it contributes to the changing of our future by making us aware of our past.

Stress is a major contributor to poor health, and stress is most commonly associated with emotional distress, fatigue, insomnia, worry and anxiety. Annually, SETMA completes a “stress assessment” on each patient we see. The reason is that often when the stress is relieved, physical symptoms disappear. For instance, a patient with diabetes and high blood pressure was not treated to goal. Try as we could, we were not successful. Then the patient was asked about stress factors. A significant interpersonal relationship was creating overwhelming stress in the patient’s life. Through multiple interventions, the stress was relieved and the patient’s diabetes and high blood pressure responded to treatment.

We’ve noticed that with some patients, their blood pressure would be uncontrolled at the same time every year. This observation allows us to address stress factors in the patient’s life, rather than just adding more medication. Often we found the anniversary of a personal tragedy, and each year at that time, grief overwhelmed the body’s defense mechanism. With this awareness, rather than adding more blood pressure medication, we were able to deal with the real cause of the physical symptom, stress...

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Dr. James L. Holly is CEO of Southeast Texas Medical Associates, LLP (SETMA) in Beaumont.