Across the country, many physicians are already seeing how an economic crisis can affect a person's health. Dr. Oz joins Oprah's opinionated panel via Skype™ from his office at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
As a practicing heart surgeon, Dr. Oz says he's caring for many Wall Street workers who are coming in for open heart surgery. Why does stress wreak havoc on the human body? He says biology is to blame.
"We have an autopilot that runs our body, and it's designed perfectly for one main reason—get away from predators," he says. "But if you're [stressed] all the time, extra blood that's going to your head can give you headaches as you stress out and overfocus."
Dr. Oz says people get stomach cramps because blood is shunted away from their intestines when they run away from problems.
Financial anxiety can also cause weight gain and make you eat more than usual. "What was the equivalent of stress 500 years ago? There was no stock market. Stress 500 years ago was a famine," Dr. Oz says. "So the body starts to secrete cortisone, which is a steroid, and you make more fat."
Dr. Oz says stress and weight gain come together to produce the perfect storm. "You've got more belly fat that makes you inflamed and sticky in your blood, and you've got spasm in your arteries because you're so tense from that fight-or-flight response," he says. "Now we're seeing the kinds of heart attacks that so many of us have been fearing."
Over the course of a person's life, Dr. Oz says half of our major stressors are economic in nature. In fact, studies show that 40 percent of divorces are caused by financial disagreements. "If you add it all together, you're going to lose about eight years of your life, on average, from a major financial stress," he says.