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Primary care docs may hold key to stress relief

Leah Grossman sees Dr. Aditi Nerurkar for help with reducing stress, a program that includes meditation. (Source: NPN) Leah Grossman sees Dr. Aditi Nerurkar for help with reducing stress, a program that includes meditation. (Source: NPN)

(NPN) - For the millions of people dealing with stress, their medical doctor may be the secret weapon in helping them calm down.

Leah Grossman's stress came from living in a new town. To get back above water, she went to see a physician who specializes in stress management.

"I was feeling like I was being strangled and drowning," Grossman said. "She did some meditation with me in the office the first visit. She suggested I attend a tai chi class."

Forty-two percent of adults say their stress level has gone up in the past five years, but one study found 10 percent of adults do nothing to manage that pressure.

Dr. Aditi Nerurkar sees patients for stress management. She said her goal is to help a patient step back and examine the effect on their entire life, rather than a particular body system.

"Stress is implicated and can exacerbate a number of medical conditions all the way from a common cold to a heart attack," Nerurkar said.

Dr. Adam Perlman also works with people to reduce the pressures they feel in everyday life.

He said the practice of looking at the whole picture is catching on.

"Stress in our current society is really an epidemic if you think about it," Perlman said. "So more doctors do seem to be incorporating stress management into their practices. There is a growing demand also from patients."

The push to bring stress reduction to primary care is a result of its physical, not just emotional, effects on the body.

Physicians agree there is no one anti-stress solution for all patients. When people see a doctor for stress, they treat the body as well as the mind.

Nerurkar said the five elements of stress reduction she addresses with patients are sleep, diet, exercise, social support and meditation.

"My approach in managing stress is that it's a piece of the larger puzzle of someone's medical condition," Nerurkar said. "So while I teach meditation, I do not think that meditation can replace medication."

She points out having some stress in life, at healthy levels, can be a good thing. It can motivate people to be productive and take on challenges.

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