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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

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Now in a third edition, Robert M. Sapolsky's acclaimed and successful Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers features new chapters on how stress affects sleep and addiction, as well as new insights into anxiety and personality disorder and the impact of spirituality on managing stress.

As Sapolsky explains, most of us do not lie awake at night worrying about whether we have leprosy or malaria. Instead, the diseases we fear—and the ones that plague us now—are illnesses brought on by the slow accumulation of damage, such as heart disease and cancer. When we worry or experience stress, our body turns on the same physiological responses that an animal's does, but we do not resolve conflict in the same way—through fighting or fleeing. Over time, this activation of a stress response makes us sick.

560 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

Robert M. Sapolsky

30 books3,521 followers
Robert Morris Sapolsky is an American neuroendocrinology researcher and author. He is currently a professor of biology, and professor of neurology and neurological sciences and, by courtesy, neurosurgery, at Stanford University. In addition, he is a research associate at the National Museums of Kenya.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,116 reviews
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews717 followers
February 14, 2020
I just really love Robert Sapolsky. I was familiar with a lot of stuff covered in the book but I still really enjoyed reading through it. Personally feel like he's a very good science communicator and makes things digestible in a way that's accessible for everyone without really losing much of the nuance. I really don't know what else to write, usually when I write long reviews its because I have a lot of pent up irritation to vent but when I love things I'm just like guys this is good totally would recommend. I do think I enjoyed Behave a lot more though because it covers a lot more biology/plus I learnt a lot of new things from it. Also really appreciate him providing context on the limitations of what one can really do to cope with inequity especially when I see so much pop psychology being about just trying to make everyone have grit or whatever.

Profile Image for Punk.
1,503 reviews243 followers
October 16, 2010
Non-Fiction. Twelve chapters on how stress is going to kill you, followed by six chapters on why stress is stressful, when it's not, and what we can do about it.

If you're a worrier, this may not be the book for you. I won't lie, it upset me in the beginning. There are so many ways that stress can affect your health, your memory, the way you age, how you deal with stressors, and even how your children deal with stressors. The book can become a source of stress itself, one that far outweighs the few methods it gives for dealing with stress. But it addresses a lot of important issues, like the economics of stress and the way poverty and pay inequality have life-long health ramifications. It's not just about stress on a personal level, but a social, cultural, and political one. It also looks at the role stress plays in mental illness, pain, infertility, and addiction.

The science can be quite dense at times, but Sapolsky is good at walking you through it and recalling topics he introduced earlier so you never have to feel like you're studying for something. He makes this easy to read, even if the subject is a difficult one. He's a great writer with a sense of humor, an obvious love of science, and respect for views that aren't his own. He offers multiple approaches for any given problem and points out questions we don't have answers for yet.

Four stars. Good science writing that challenges assumptions and doesn't take itself too seriously. Also includes extensive end notes and an index. If you read this, get the third edition; it's revised and updated.
Profile Image for John Kaess.
404 reviews
March 11, 2015
The author spends 22 chapters beating us to death with hundreds of studies about how and why stress is bad for us. He focuses strongly on the chemistry and physiology of stress in animals and humans. He then spends 1 chapter on things we can do about it. Basically: don't be born poor, don't have a bad marriage, exercise and be religious. There. Now you don't have to read the book.
Profile Image for Infinite Jen.
83 reviews301 followers
March 24, 2023
Selections from the Filmography of James O. Incandenza.

“It could be your glucocorticoids.” - Year of the Ectopic Heartbeat Dubstep Frequency Crowd Dispersal Device (?) Sex Panther Entertainment Unlimited/X-Ray and Infrared Photography by Marvin McGroin’s Medicinal Anthrax Soft Shell Tacos Incorporated, Amarillo, TX. The Ultimate Warrior (John Brian “Jim” Hellwig), Robert Sapolsky (Bill Sapolsky), Jennifer (Jen), Jim (Jim Cornette). George “The Animal” Steele (The Animal Himself). Lucious Malfoy (Jason Isaacs). Listed by some archivists as completed the following year, Y.T.-S.D.B. UNRELEASED

Film begins silent. A naked man (George “The Animal” Steele) is sitting in a nondescript room, stress eating Toblerones. Weeping. His body visibility wracked with anguish as tributaries of warm nougat and honey stochastically traverse the lumpy topology of his hirsute torso. Twisting and bifurcating. His chest and stomach tattooed with a network of lines the color of Swiss mocha, all converging inexorably on the tenebrous vortex of his navel, where their flavors may be lost forever, beyond the event horizon, or else re-congealed into a perfect orb of Toblerone, sans almonds, and shot into another dimension. Adjacent, a dog-eared copy of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and several disemboweled turnbuckles. Robert Sapolsky (Bill Sapolsky) breaks the silence with susurrus of a glucocorticoidical nature, causing the tremulous bulk of the seated figured (George “The Animal” Steele) to quake with continued sobs.

"Primates are super smart and organized just enough to devote their free time to being miserable to each other and stressing each other out. But if you get chronically, psychosocially stressed, you're going to compromise your health. So, essentially, we've evolved to be smart enough to make ourselves sick."

Scene transitions to ringside view with J. (Yours truly) and Jim (Jim Cornette) commentating on the arrival of the main event; The Ultimate Warrior (John Brian “Jim” Hellwig) vs. Robert Sapolsky (Bill Sapolsky). In a flourish of flash bang pyrotechnics, The Ultimate Warrior (James Brian “Jim” Hellwig) emerges from backstage like a shaved mule with rainbow plumages fastened and KISS makeup applied. A creature built for carnage. Canines bared in atavistic rage. Nostrils flared to pump Cretaceous levels of oxygen into his swollen musculature.

“Here he comes, Jen.”

“Implacable. Like a force of nature, Jim.”

“A goddamn man mountain, Jen.”

“A veritable mountain of man, Jim.

“Right you are, Jen.

“A being like unto all that was glorious about the era of hair metal, processed and packed into a latex baggie like a summer sausage, Jim.

“Would you just look at that sausage, Jen.”

“An ultra thin condom glistening with obscene amounts of spermicide and stuffed to bursting with walnuts, Jim.”

“Get a load of the vascularity, I mean, would you just look at that, Jen.”

“It’s almost sickening, Jim.”

“I’m a little sick, Jen.”

“I may throw up right here. Watch me, Jim.”

“So help me, if you go, then I go, Jen.”

“I’m more frightened than sick, Jim.”

“I’ll piss myself. You know I’ll do it, Jen.”

“Not again. Stay strong, Jim.”

“I’m clenching, Jen.”

“I’m sympathetically clenching, Jim.”



The Ultimate Warrior (James Brian “Jim” Hellwig), while striding down the walkway, is flagged by an uppity fan. Lucious Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) resplendent in anti-muggle apparel, is heard to sneer: “Your mother has chronically elevated glucocorticoids.”

“He’s got him by the robes, Jim.”

“By the balls too, Jen.”

“I can confirm that a massive hand is firmly on the hog, Jim.”

“Just look at those hands, Jen.”

“There he goes, Jim!”

“Good God! Would you just look at that parabola, Jen!”

“Like a comet of white hair trailing popcorn and Chardonnay, Jim”

In the center of the ring Robert Sapolsky (Robert Maurice Sapolsky, the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and by courtesy, Neurosurgery, at Stanford University. In addition, research associate at the National Museums of Kenya.) Takes up a mic and continues:

"The stress response is incredibly ancient evolutionarily. Fish, birds and reptiles secrete the same stress hormones we do, yet their metabolism doesn't get messed up the way it does in people and other primates. Just look at the dichotomy between what your body does during real stress—for example, something is intent on eating you and you're running for your life—versus what your body does when you're turning on the same stress response for months on end for purely psychosocial reasons. You mobilize energy in your thigh muscles, you increase your blood pressure and you turn off everything that's not essential to surviving, such as digestion, growth and reproduction. You think more clearly, and certain aspects of learning and memory are enhanced. All of that is spectacularly adapted if you're dealing with an acute physical stressor—a real one."

The Ultimate Warrior (John Brian “Jim” Hellwig) grabs hold of the ropes and shakes them violently.

“Would you just look at that intensity, Jen.”

“It’s as if he’s grabbed hold of a live wire, Jim.”

“Strong current flowing through that man, Jen.”

“A mesmerizing vibrational frequency of fixed amplitude is emerging, Jim”

“It’s enough to deter a slop-hound from mounting a gut-wagon, Jen.”

“Well said. Any further attempts to waller in viscera will be met with extreme electrification, Jim.

“Electrification, Jen.”

“He’s got the mic, Jim!”

“I came here for one reason — to attack and keep coming. Not to ask but just to give, not to want but just to sing, sing the power of the Warrior, because this freak of nature right here is just beginning to swell, and when I get big enough, brother, there ain’t gonna be room for anybody else but me and all the Warriors floating through the veins.”

"If you turn on the stress response chronically for purely psychological reasons,” Sapolsky admonishes. “You increase your risk of adult onset diabetes and high blood pressure. If you're chronically shutting down the digestive system, there's a bunch of gastrointestinal disorders you're more at risk for as well."


"Furthermore,” Sapolsky counters. “If you're chronically stressed, all sorts of aspects of brain function are impaired, including, at an extreme, making it harder for some neurons to survive neurological insults. Also, neurons in the parts of the brain relating to learning, memory and judgment don't function as well under stress. That particular piece is what my lab has spent the last 20 years on." The Warrior, seeming terrible confused, opens the floor. "If you plan to get stressed like a normal mammal, you had better turn on the stress response or else you're dead. But if you get chronically, psychosocially stressed, like a Westernized human, then you are more at risk for heart disease and some of the other leading causes of death in Westernized life." The Warrior, having it up to here with relentless mumbo jumbo, explodes, drawing himself up and towering over the diminutive smarty pants, pectorals dancing in rhythmic electrochemical spasms.


"We are capable of social supports that no other primate can even dream of," Sapolsky says. "For example, I might say, 'This job, where I'm a lowly mailroom clerk, really doesn't matter. What really matters is that I'm the captain of my softball team or deacon of my church'—that sort of thing. It's not just somebody sitting here, grooming you with their own hands. We can actually feel comfort from the discovery that somebody on the other side of the planet is going through the same experience we are and feel, I'm not alone. We can even take comfort reading about a fictional character, and there's no primate out there that can feel better in life just by listening to Beethoven. So the range of supports that we're capable of is extraordinary."

“I look up to the gods, and when you fall below the skeletons of the Warriors past, the power of the Warriors will become the eight wonder of the woooorrrrrldddd!!! Normal people, the people that walk the streets every day, we cannot understand. The family that I live for only breathes the air that smells of combat. With or without the face-paint I am the Ultimate Warrioooooorrrr!!! How must I prepare, you must ask yourself. Should I jump off the tallest building in the world? Should I lay on the lawn and let them run over me with lawn-mowers? Should I go to Africa and let them trample me with raging elephants? In my final meeting with the gods from the heavens above, they spoke to me and hit me with the power of the Ultimate Warrior. They told me: action stage left, action stage right. There is no place to run, all the fuses in the exit signs have burnt out. Aaaaarrgghhh, you can feel it dude. You can feel it! Full of the juice that carries the spaceship as far as it wants to go! Because when the moon is blood red the heavens have opened up from above and the Warriors have spoken. You’ve got the power to make the skies rumble and the earth shake. In the sheets of the wind, then I will survive. Load the spaceship with the rocket fuel, load it with the Warriors. With the command of my voice I raise the level of the Warriors to one that can’t be reproduced. Dig your claws into my organs, scratch into my tendons, bury your anchors into my bones, for the power of the Warrior will always prevaaaaaiiiiiilllll. By now all the little Warriors know that the power of the Ultimate Warrior is something that you want to feel, that you want to taste. It’s something that when you turn on that TV screen or when you buy a ticket to the Arenas you know that’ it’s going to be exciting and it might even be a little bit frightening. Now you must deal with the creation of all the un-pleasantries of the entire universe as I feel the injection from the gods above. I only know that the Ultimate Warrior is totally out of controoooooooolllll. Come on in where nightmares are the best part of my daaaaaaaayyyyyy. I live for anger and frustration. Combat is where I will be.”

“I’m peeing, Jen.”

“Me too, Jim.”
Profile Image for carol..
1,538 reviews7,887 followers
Want to read
April 6, 2020
A very interesting book, but probably not one to read during a pandemic. Yeah, I know; you would think it would help. But somehow, talking about stress response, cortisol and anxiety during a time of world-wide physical and psychological stress response is actually a bit stressful.

It's somewhat technical, but readable. It walks the reader through different aspects of the body and normal physiological response. Although he relies on the extreme examples ("ancestors confronting lions"), the information contained is valid. I suppose that's one of the troubles with science-translation.

It's been updated twice since original publication. I feel like most of what it is saying isn't surprising, but I last intensively looked at stress response in the late 90s, so I'm wondering what more current thinking is.
Profile Image for John.
5 reviews2 followers
September 21, 2007
I encountered a link to a speech by Sapolsky on Pharyngula, I think, and was immediately engaged by his speaking style. His books, or this one at least, is similarly easy to get into, and manages to discuss topics of fair complexity in an incredibly approachable way. He's clearly aware that his book might be read by a wide range of audiences, and strives to provide something for everyone. I'll definitely be working my way through the rest of his catalog.

The book is fascinating, too, although as he notes many times, thinking about and addressing stress is difficult, because trying to act to reduce stress can itself be stressful. As he elucidates what's currently known about the links between stress and disease, a lot of interesting things emerge, some of which are essentially throwaway trivia, like the idea that anti-depressant medication takes a while to work on people that are clinically depressed because of the physiological nature of depression; he doesn't really spell it out, but the obvious corollary is that is someone takes AD medication and instantly feels better, they're probably not actually depressed. This insight was immensely powerful to me in this over-prescribed age of ours.
7 reviews13 followers
December 29, 2011
This is hands down the best medical book I have ever read. In a series of memorable and highly amusing stories and anecdotes Sapolsky explains the complex biology behind why well known principles of psychology, religion, new age philosophy and even voodoo curses work.

The central story of the book is how the fight or flight response – the most powerful force that has shaped vertebrate evolution for hundreds of millions of years - is now being turned against modern humans through chronic stress and anxiety. He outlines how modern stress triggers that have nothing to do with immediate survival - whether brought on from traffic, bad bosses, bad relationships - can be linked to exacerbating the development of almost every modern epidemic from cancer to colitis, depression to dwarfism, diabetes to diarrhea, heart disease to infertility to immune disorders.

The book concludes with some stories about coping with stress, and the unique psychological profiles of the people who avoid the development of stress-related diseases and experience health improvements with aging in a process he calls “successful aging.”
Profile Image for Chung Chin.
107 reviews7 followers
February 9, 2013
This is a book packed full of information on how stress can cause our body to go haywire. You will find explanation for how stress affects your weight, sleep, and health in general.
Although there are still lots of jargon and terms in the book that you will find alien, the explanation is given in the most simple way possible, making it an accessible material in general.

However, after reading through all the chapters on how stress can wreak havoc to our body, you don't actually get a lot of materials on how you can counter them.
So, this is a book on how stress can cause damage to your body. If you're looking for a solid book on recommendations to deal with stress, this might not be it.
To the author's credit, he is trying to be as accurate as possible, and therefore I believe he is trying his best to recommend the most scientifically accurate practice to deal with stress; and sadly, there may not be many, although there is a few practical one such as exercise and meditation.
Profile Image for Jane DeTamble.
580 reviews29 followers
August 28, 2019

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” – Paradise Lost, John Milton

I have always loved this quote from Paradise Lost. I have it written down in several notebooks, typed out on a sticky note on my laptop that I frequently scroll over, and even had it framed on the wall of my room when I lived with my parents. From the time I first read it, back in second year university, it became a sort of mantra for me, providing me with comfort and reassurance that even if times seemed particularly bad and I felt incredibly stressed, my mind was strong enough to control those feelings and to get me through whatever stressors I encountered.

But, what I have learned in the last year is that (sometimes…often) the mind isn’t enough. Robert M. Sapolsky has a similar quote in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: “To a certain extent, our perceptions and interpretations of events can determine whether the same external circumstances constitute heaven or hell…” The crux of Sapolsky’s text, though, is that the mind isn’t always strong enough to overcome external circumstances and put them in perspective and, what’s more, sometimes the mind isn’t even capable of doing this sort of heavy lifting if there is a disorder or disease (such as depression or anxiety) that prevents it from doing so. To believe that the mind can persevere in all instances and actually change one’s perspective on reality 100% of the time is foolhardy and naive, and probably was incredibly detrimental to me back in university and had adverse effects on how I would learn to cope with stress as an adult. The point being that understanding stress and the science behind it is no simple task and certainly can’t be reduced to the belief that the mind, if persistent enough, can get a person through anything.

I don’t often read non-fiction books. In fact, I rarely read them, if ever. However, it seems that this year I have done a lot of reading of non-fiction and the main reason for this is that I have felt empowered and motivated recently to finally try to understand my anxiety. When it became evident, towards the end of my third trimester of pregnancy back this past March, that my anxiety was going to be made much more severe by my pregnant condition, I knew (partly because my doctors were telling me) that something had to give and that I needed to get a better handle on my anxious condition once and for all. Not only for my baby’s health, but also for my present and future well-being and overall happiness. Part of this process has involved seeing a psychiatrist and learning about meditation and mindfulness techniques. Part of it has been about exercising as often as possible and forcing myself to go out and interact with my friends and family members even when I don’t feel up for it. But, I have always been an avid learner, a true student at heart from the moment I entered my grade one classroom, and so I felt that I wanted to supplement my doctor’s appointments and daily activities with reading material that would allow me to come to grips with feelings I have had for my entire life. I never have put in the effort to truly understand my anxiety in this way, and I immediately picked up the self-help book Let That Sh*t Go by Kate Petriw and Nina Purewal hoping that it would be a quick and easy read that would at least help me feel a little bit better. It certainly did and it was good, but it wasn’t anything truly groundbreaking or earth-shattering and it didn’t by any means fundamentally change my perspective on anxiety. I next delved into a book recommended by my psychiatrist, Mind Over Mood, and this was of course a huge eye-opener to me in that it taught me the basics of cognitive behavioural therapy and worked wonders to help me reframe my insecurities and fears and better manage my heightened emotions. What I felt these two books lacked, though, was an explanation of what was going on in my brain, of the chemical, biological and physical mechanisms that were clearly contributing to my anxious state and probably had been since my birth. It was a desire to get to the bottom of these internal processes that led me to pick up Sapolsky’s book.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is easily one of the best books I have ever read, of any genre or category. (That’s right, I’m putting it right up there with Jane Eyre although it is, naturally, a very different text!) I was utterly blown away by Sapolsky’s work, and as someone who has never studied psychology and who only studied science up until the end of high school, I was thoroughly impressed by how accessible and relatable he made the scientific explanations in this book. This type of text could easily become overwhelming, but Sapolsky is very careful to keep things manageable for his reader, and he even infuses dry humour, jokes and wit into the text (especially in his often unexpectedly hilarious footnotes, which are a must-read in themselves). He of course uses terminology like “glucocorticoids” and names of “catecholamines” like “epinephrine” and “norepinephrine” often, but he uses them so frequently and explains them so thoroughly that the reader gets the sense, by the end of the book, that these concepts aren’t all that incomprehensible. 

I also made a conscious effort to take my time while reading this book, not because it felt dense at all, but because it did feel heavy. I admit, it was an emotional read for me because I could so easily and fundamentally relate to the findings that Sapolsky examined; I became one of the test subjects he discussed because I recognized how my experiences fit into the results and conclusions. On the one hand, it was nice to know that there is a scientific explanation for why I feel a certain way, but it was also jarring and terrifying to be confronted with so much evidence and research to explain something that I have kind of taken for granted for my entire life. It made my anxiety feel that much more real and that much more difficult to ignore.

Chapter 15, thus, became an incredibly meaningful chapter for me as it investigated anxiety disorders and the personality types that lend themselves to these sorts of disorders. Needless to say, I checked pretty much every box, and that was, as I mentioned, both liberating and scary. There was this sense, as I read, that Sapolsky just understood ME, on a fundamental level, and again, while it was nice to know that I am not alone in any of my feelings, it was also emotional. It made me even more moved when Sapolsky began to call anxiety a “disease” and distinguished it from chronic stress as being rooted in “a cognitive distortion”. Sapolsky posits that, whereas chronic stress is normally a response to an actually perceived external stressor (whether physiological or psychological), anxiety can arise due to stressors that are entirely imagined. This is definitely in-line with my own personal experiences, and while I appreciated the understanding Sapolsky’s description provided to me, no one ever wants to hear that they suffer from a disease. That’s not an easy pill to swallow, and I found myself realizing that I even exhibited anxious tendencies and behaviours as a young child (such as obsessive thinking and phobias) and becoming a bit saddened and melancholy about this. With my increased knowledge certainly came a better understanding of myself, but this wasn’t always a pleasant experience to be sure.

What I did gain, most definitely, was a better comprehension of the biology of anxiety and a greater appreciation of the fact that it is a physical, scientific condition rooted in the brain. I’ve always known deep down that my anxiety is not something I have very much (if any) control over, but it is easy to believe, when something is a mental struggle, that if you can just be stronger, you can get past it. That is, after all, what Milton suggests and that quote from Paradise Lost is still one of my favourites. What is important to remember, however, is that mental illnesses are in fact just as physical as clearly physical ones, and although I always had an inkling of that, Sapolsky’s book solidified it for me. It made it clear to me that I shouldn’t be hard on myself, that I might not be able to conquer this all on my own, and that is okay. It made me realize that, just as I would seek help for a broken leg, there is nothing at all embarrassing or shameful about seeking help for a troubled mind. On the contrary, it is actually quite important and necessary.

I’d like to close my review with a few quotes that particularly spoke to me from Sapolsky’s text. I will never be able to explain myself the concepts he espouses (he is a scientist, after all, and I don’t claim to be), but hopefully these quotes will give you a sense for how he writes and what value can be derived from picking up this book. It is one that has undoubtedly changed my life in so many ways and I would not hesitate to recommend it to those who wish to get to the root of what their brains might be undergoing on a daily basis.

Quotes That Particularly Resonated with Me:
“Anxiety is about dread and foreboding and your imagination running away with you.”

“the distorted belief that stressors are everywhere and perpetual, and that the only hope for safety is constant mobilization of coping responses. Life consists of the concrete, agitated present of solving a problem that someone else might not even consider exists.”

“most things that make us anxious are learned…we’ve generalized them based on their similarity to something associated with a trauma.”

“For all anxious people, life is full of menacing stressors that demand vigilant coping responses.”

“Find ways to view even the most stressful of situations as holding the promise of improvement but do not deny the possibility that things will not improve…Hope for the best and let that dominate most of your emotions, but at the same time let one small piece of you prepare for the worst.”

“Find that outlet for your frustrations and do it regularly.”

“Have the wisdom to pick your battles. And once you have, the flexibility and resiliency of strategies to use in those battles…”

“Sometimes, coping with stress consists of blowing down walls. But sometimes it consists of being a blade of grass, buffeted and bent by the wind but still standing when the wind is long gone.”
Profile Image for Brendan Monroe.
572 reviews151 followers
April 6, 2020
I'm a major stresser.

I stress over big things, over little things, over all things. Because I'm a stresser, I'm all too often a stressor (i.e. a person or thing that causes stress) for the people around me.

It sucks, really. I don't like stressing, something that all those who are constantly telling me to "calm down," "chill out," "relax!" just don't seem to get.

It's not like I can just flip a switch here.

If only!

It worries me, because of course, along with stressing, I'm also anxious. Yes, anxiety is a constant companion. I worry all the time that I don't have enough time, so I spend all my time worrying.

Time, money, people ... these are the main things that cause me stress and anxiety, but they certainly aren't the only ones.

I worry because I stress. Mainly because, if I get so stressed going to the grocery story (and I very much do), how will I handle something truly monumental? Like, say, the death of a loved one, or bad health news? (I have, for now, been incredibly fortunate to not to have had to deal with either.)

My stress sometimes starts off over small things, not emailing a friend who emailed me a month ago, say, forgetting to pick up toothpaste, and then spirals into greater stresses, what I call "tomorrow stresses" (though my stress is happening very much in the present moment).

I don't have health insurance, so what if something happens to me and I need to go the doctor? What if I can't pay my rent? What if I am forced forced to work in an office again? (god forbid!)

I very much have tried/am trying to get my anxiety/stress under control. No, I won't take anxiety medication. I flat out refuse to even consider the prospect of anti-depressants or the like (I'm not really depressed anyway ... I don't think). I've always viewed pills as the worst sort of coping mechanism (well, aside from harder drugs like alcohol or heroin, that is). Always having to constantly up the dosage to maintain the same feeling of ... numbness. No thanks.

No disrespect intended to anyone who takes prescription meds, by the way. Whatever you need to get you through the day. I just know that it's not something I can envision for myself ...

So I've tried other things.

I've downloaded a meditation app and one of these days — tomorrow, let's say, as I do every day — I will actually start it. I bought and read this book, which I otherwise wouldn't have done.

It's a very good book. I liked it a lot and I'm glad I read it. Boiling down stress to various chemical elements, leading to an over abundance of glucocorticoids, leading to umm, bad things, helps ... I think. It takes the emotional component out of it, makes it feel more mechanical, like a broken chain on a bicycle that can, maybe, be fixed.

Some might complain that of the 18 chapters that make up "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers," only the final one, "Managing Stress," actually tells you how to, uh, manage stress. But those 17 former chapters are equally as important.

For one thing, they give you a better idea of the effects of stressing out (spoiler: they're not good), which was, yes, stressful to learn about. But for another, the cumulative effect of all the various stressors, of learning the hows and the whys of it all, is oddly comforting.

Many would likely consider a book about stress a particularly timely read, in light of, well, the times. Which is a funny thing, because I've found — pathologically? — that I'm possibly less stressed now than I was before. In some way, it again goes back to the idea of time, of missing out on life, on things. Misery does love company, and the fact that so many people are, sadly, miserable at the current moment — isolated in their homes, unable to attend any sort of gatherings or events as they've all been canceled — comforts me as I know that 1. I'm not alone and 2. I'm not missing out on anything.

Yes, maybe I'm a villain ripped straight from a comic book. At least credit me for my honesty.

And that's the one aspect I wish Robert Sapolsky — who I feel I'd very much like as a person — had covered, albeit my edition (the third, released in 2004) may have been slightly too old for that, Millennial that I am.

Which is whether there is any truth to the idea that anxiety and stress may be not just individual, but generational as well. You often hear, or at least I do, that Millennials are more prone to stress, more anxious, than their generational predecessors. There are, of course, many very reasonable explanations for this.

Student debt. Gross inequality. Global warming. Helicopter parenting. Stricter moral upbringings. Growing up in the age of global terrorism. General disenchantment with modern politics. Untempered capitalism. Doubts as to whether one can truly make a difference, etc etc etc, ad infinitum.

Because when I talk to my Millennial counterparts, I don't feel unique in my anxiety, in my stress over how to survive, how to make a living, in 2020. Nobody seems to have the answers, and the general advice from our elders seems to be "don't worry so much" when indeed there seems to be so much to worry about.

It's an anxiety stemming not from a fear of nonexistence, of our mortality, but of existence itself, of reconciling with the fact that a human existence bears no more meaning than an animal one, because we are, after all, just animals.

We struggle to reconcile with this fact, to cope with the reality that there is no meaning to any of it.

The only answer, then, is to make our own meaning. To find it in books, in relationships, in writing, in forms of expression that will outlast ourselves.

You may even find it here.
Profile Image for hayden.
1,056 reviews733 followers
April 4, 2016
this book is hi-la-ri-ous.

not only does sapolsky brilliantly explain the science in an easily digestible way, he does it with flair and humor. had to read this for a class about stress and coping, and i found myself looking forward to each assignment.
Profile Image for Morgan Blackledge.
580 reviews1,958 followers
February 10, 2013
Sapolsky is god. He's a great writer. But he is an immortal lecturer. Youtube his Stanford classes and behold! Pure genius.
Profile Image for Atila Iamarino.
411 reviews4,362 followers
March 24, 2016
Gostei muito do primeiro livro do Robert Sapolsky, o Memórias de um Primata. E este não me desapontou. Muito bem embasado, com bastante pesquisa (e prática) sobre o que é o estresse, como funciona e como nós lidamos bem ou mal com isso. Com aquela discussão necessária de natureza vs. criação, bons exemplos e um bom humor que te mantém ligado ao texto. Do tipo de livro que recomendo para leigos também.
Profile Image for محمد العرادي.
16 reviews11 followers
April 11, 2013
هذا هو كتابي السحري الذي أدعو الجميع لقراءته، سوف يدهشكم.

ليس كتاب طبي كما يمكن أن يكون الكتاب الطبي إلا أنه أشتغال بالطب لا شك، لكنه اشتغال مبسط يجعلك تفهم كما لو كنت طالباً في الثانوية وتتلقى درساً لطلاب الإبتدائي. أهتم استاذ علم الأعصاب في جامعة ستانفورد الأستاذ سابولسكي بقضية ‘‘ الكرب ‘‘ وأجد هذه الترجمة أفضل من كلمة ‘‘ الضغوط ‘‘ Stress كيف يتفاعل الجسم والدماغ تحديداً مع الكرب، سوف تفهم كثيرا�� من الأشياء حول آليات عمل دماغك المعقد أمام الكرب وسوف تندهش من بعض الظواهر لهذا العمل.

Profile Image for Laura.
33 reviews16 followers
June 21, 2017
A brilliant and incredibly well-written book.

Every time I read something by Sapolsky I get amazed with how prodigious he is. No matter what he's talking about, everything he says is interesting and engaging. That summarises my feelings with this book. I don't find the stress subject very interesting, just because I often suffer from it, therefore I prefer to act like it doesn't exist, but unexpectedly, this helped me realize that I've been doing the entirely wrong thing (want to know why? read this book). However, don't come to this book expecting to get advice for your stress problems. This book will teach you about how your body reacts to stress, why it happens, the biology and chemistry behind it and also, how it could end up killing you. Just in the last chapter, Sapolsky will specifically talk about what could you do about it, though repetively saying that it's an entirely subjective thing. This summarizes it:
By now, if you are not depressed by all the bad news in the preceding chapters, you probably have only been skimming. Stress can wreak havoc with your metabolism, raise your blood pressure, burst your white blood cells, make you flatulent, ruin your sex life and if that's not enough, possibly damage your brain. Why don't we throw in the towel right now?

One of the greatest things about Sapolsky's books, it's that though some things are difficult to get, he will continually repeat what you have learned and how everything it's connected. Some topics may be hard, but he will do everything to make it clear for you.
12 reviews3 followers
January 8, 2010
Well researched book. Sapolsky, who I am a big fan of, explains why certain types of stresses like long work days end up having more serious negative effects on your physiology than do other types of stress such as a lion chasing after you. Sure the lion stresses you out then and there but a week from now your bodily functions won't still be affected by it.

My one beef with this book is that it doesn't give you much in the way of how to handle stress. I felt somewhat more stressed after reading reading this book because I finally had a good understanding of all of its negative effects but still didn't know what to do about it....
Profile Image for Юра Мельник.
310 reviews29 followers
February 1, 2021
У боротьбі зі стресом ця книга сумнівний помічник. Головні поради - народитись у багатій родині, займатись медитацією і ходити до психологів. Проте наукова база дійсно цікава і вражаюча.
Profile Image for Jahed.
5 reviews1 follower
July 30, 2013
Should be compulsory reading for every high school biology student. A thorough dismantling of the reductionist cell biology mindset of the 20th century, Sapolsky shows you how very complex and intricate the interaction is between organism and environment, and how 'genes' may be overrated in a lot of ways.
Profile Image for Troy Blackford.
Author 23 books2,499 followers
February 3, 2016
Dr. Sapolsky is everything you could want from an author on a serious topic like stress: a world-class leader in the field of research, a clear and perceptive writer, and equal parts hilarious and profound. Learning about the physiology and psychology of stress would be interesting either way, but learning about it through his book is at least doubly so. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Dovilė Stonė.
141 reviews71 followers
December 2, 2020
Skaičiau trečią leidimą - visai svarbu, nes autorius nuo 1994-ųjų, kai pirmąkart pasirodė ši knyga, didelę dalį informacijos atnaujino.

Sapolskis yra vienas mano mėgstamiausių akademikų, savo paskaitose ir knygose pavydėtinai sklandžiai derinantis sofistikuotą mokslinę kalbą su gyvenimiškais pavyzdžiais ir žaviu humoru. Šioje knygoje jis pristato, kas žinoma (ir kas nežinoma) apie chroniško streso poveikį žmogaus fiziologijai. Su kokiomis ligomis jis gali sietis ir kaip.

Kad ir kaip mėgčiau šį autorių, ilgai delsiau skaityt "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers", nes bijojau, kad knyga eilinį kartą gąsdins žmones, kad jie, nevykėliai, save lėtai žudo. Ir kad visi turi "mažiau stresuot". Bet nuo pat įžangos paaiškėjo, kad autoriaus pozicija daug kuklesnė, konstruktyvesnė ir realistiškesnė, o paskutinis skyrius puikiai viską apibendrino.

Tad norint ne tik įsibauginti ir nežinoti, ką veikti su visa ta informacija, knygą reikėtų skaityti visą. Iš eilės.

Tiesa, nežinau dėl kitų sričių, bet bent jau depresijos genetinio pagrindo dalį visai verta papildyti, nes pastaraisiais metais dėl šio menamo ryšio kilo nemažai šaršalo - ar jis apskritai egzistuoja, ar keliasdešimt metų vaikytasi tik statistinė iliuzija. Anyway...

"Genes are rarely about inevitability, especially when it comes to humans, the brain, or behavior. They’re about vulnerability, propensities, tendencies. In this case, genes increase the risk of depression only in certain environments: you guessed it, only in stressful environments.

"At one extreme, you have the mainstream medical crowd that is concerned with reductive biology. For them, poor health revolves around issues of bacteria, viruses, genetic mutations, and so on. At the other extreme are the folks anchored in mind-body issues, for whom poor health is about psychological stress, lack of control and efficacy, and so on. A lot of this book has, as one of its goals, tried to develop further links between those two viewpoints. This has come in the form of showing how sensitive reductive biology can be to some of those psychological factors, and exploring the mechanisms that account for this. And it has come in the form of criticizing the extremes of both camps: on the one hand, trying to make clear how limiting it is to believe that humans can ever be reduced to a DNA sequence, and on the other, trying to indicate the damaging idiocy of denying the realities of human physiology and disease. The ideal resolution harks back to the wisdom of Herbert Weiner [...] that disease, even the most reductive of diseases, cannot be appreciated without considering the person who is ill.
If we can’t consider disease outside the context of the person who is ill, we also can’t consider it outside the context of the society in which that person has gotten ill, and that person’s place in that society."

"It is clearly a travesty to lead cancer patients or their families to believe, misinterpreting the power of the few positive studies in this field, that there is more possibility for control over the causes and courses of cancers than actually exists. Doing so is simply teaching the victims of cancer and their families that the disease is their own fault, which is neither true nor conducive to reducing stress in an already stressful situation."

"The realm of stress management is mostly about techniques to help deal with challenges that are less than disastrous. It is pretty effective in that sphere. But it just won’t work to generate a cult of subjectivity in which these techniques are blithely offered as a solution to the hell of a homeless street person, a refugee, someone prejudged to be one of society’s Untouchables, or a terminal cancer patient. Occasionally, there is the person in a situation like that with coping powers to make one gasp in wonder, who does indeed benefit from these techniques. Celebrate them, but that’s never grounds for turning to the person next to them in the same boat and offering that as a feel-good incentive just to get with the program. Bad science, bad clinical practice, and, ultimately, bad ethics. If any hell really could be converted into a heaven, then you could make the world a better place merely by rousing yourself from your lounge chair to inform a victim of some horror whose fault it is if they are unhappy."

"Stress is not everywhere. Every twinge of dysfunction in our bodies is not a manifestation of stress-related disease. It is true that the real world is full of bad things that we can finesse away by altering our outlook and psychological makeup, but it is also full of awful things that cannot be eliminated by a change in attitude, no matter how heroically, fervently, complexly, or ritualistically we may wish. Once we are actually sick with the illness, the fantasy of which keeps us anxiously awake at two in the morning, the things that will save us have little to do with the content of this book. Once we have that cardiac arrest, once a tumor has metastasized, once our brain has been badly deprived of oxygen, little about our psychological outlook is likely to help. We have entered the realm where someone else—a highly trained physician—must use the most high-tech of appropriate medical interventions
These caveats must be emphasized repeatedly in teaching what cures to seek and what attributions to make when confronted with many diseases. But amid this caution, there remains a whole realm of health and disease that is sensitive to the quality of our minds—our thoughts and emotions and behaviors. And sometimes whether or not we become sick with the diseases that frighten us at two in the morning will reflect this realm of the mind. It is here that we must turn from the physicians and their ability to clean up the mess afterward and recognize our own capacity to prevent some of these problems beforehand in the small steps with which we live our everyday lives."

Profile Image for Sineala.
713 reviews
November 13, 2021
A few months ago someone linked me to a YouTube lecture of Sapolsky talking about the biochemical origins of depression. I promptly put it on the background and went to do other things, except I didn't do other things, because I sat there for an hour being riveted to this guy's talk. And then I figured I should maybe pick up one of his books, and this was on sale, and, you know. Fate.

The title makes it sound like it's some kind of self-help book about how to feel less stress. It's not. It's about the biological origins and sequelae of stress. Basically, the thesis of the book is "stress is incredibly bad for your body and here's why." In detail. With explanations of exactly how your brain is doing this to you. (The content of the depression lecture I saw is also a chapter in here.) So, I mean, there are ways to feel less stress explained in here but they're all things like "be born in a higher socioeconomic class to parents who love you and while you're at it don't experience any childhood trauma." So, you know, not something you can really do a lot about. Except maybe, y'know, exercise once in a while.

You'd think that this book might be depressing. Maybe it is for some people. I am certainly a very anxious person and I kept anticipating that every chapter would bum me out -- but, weirdly, it did not. I just basically devoured the whole book! Yes! Stress! Tell me more! Honestly, I think I feel less scared of things like that if it's explained in detail, so that I know exactly what is going on and then it doesn't feel so... arbitrary, if that makes any sense. Instead of being like "well, my brain just hates me" I can be like "aha! glucocorticoids!" and somehow knowing that actually makes me feel better.

So if this sounds like the kind of book you might like, you'll probably really, really enjoy it. And if you think it might freak you out -- I mean, it actually might not! I was definitely wrong about that! I feel like everyone should give this book a try, honestly. Especially in These Plague Times. I mean, we're all pretty stressed right now.
Profile Image for Mandy Dimins.
350 reviews24 followers
August 20, 2022
I have so much to say about this book but I’ll try to summarize it into a few points:

1. A lot of the concepts in this book was illustrated with the dichotomy of “westernized” and “non-westernized” people as a shorthand for developed and non-developed societies, which I found dated (despite me reading the latest revised edition published in 2004) and bordering on offensive. Based on this alone, I might’ve given the book 1 or 2 stars.

2. The science in this one was well summarized and generally engaging. A lot of it was not new to me and which I had learnt in Physiology classes back in university, but I appreciated some concepts on a deeper level given the way Sapolsky explains it. Sometimes the technical jargon can get a bit heavy and my eyes would glaze over if I was reading the ebook, and in times like these I much preferred the audiobook. I would’ve given this aspect 4 stars.

3. A special shout-out to the last chapter about managing stress, which I found exceptionally well done compared to the rest of the book.

I find that there’s been not enough said about Point 1 in particular in the reviews for this book so I’ll devote a bit of my review to calling that out.

A huge part of this book is concerned about how far human society has evolved compared to wild animals but a lot of our physiological stress responses hasn’t quite caught up with that. There’s even a motif through this book about a zebra escaping from a lion on the savannah, which lends to the title of the book and is a way Sapolsky uses to illustrate what we have evolved to do (short-burst fight or flight physiological responses) compared to what we actually do in this time and age (utilizing what is meant to be short-burst responses but dragging that out into prolonged stress responses to human society things like mortgages, job security, anxiety over our long-term health, our children, etc.).

All of that is well and good, but what I raise issue with is how Sapolsky basically divides humanity into two halves: you’re either “westernized” or “non-westernized”. If you’re “westernized”, you live in the most advanced frontier of humanity and your society has developed far along enough that you’re dealing with high-end jobs and therefore high-end stressors. This book is written about and for you. If you’re a “non-westernized” person, then you’re literally not far from that zebra being chased by the lion on the savannah. Here are some quotes to back that up (from the 3rd revised edition published in 2004):

”If you’re a human, having enough food and water for this meal, but not being sure where the next meal is coming from is a major stressor as well, one of the defining experiences of life outside the westernized world.” (Ch 5)

”Stress-induced glucocorticoid secretion works roughly the same in all the mammals, birds, and fish..and it has only been in the last half-century or so that westernized versions of just one of those species had much of a chance of surviving something like a stroke." (Ch 10)

So yes, if you’re from a “non-westernized” part of the world, you’re definitely going to be so poor and living in the wild that your “defining experience of life” will be not being sure where your next meal is going to come from. You also would have not much of a chance surviving a stroke because of course the healthcare in your society is likely to be non-existent, given how backward your society even is. Do you even have a society or are you just troops of animals living in the wild?

Another example of this casual racism is found in Ch 9, where Sapolsky talks about stress and pain. He zooms in on how acupuncture, a traditionally East Asian medical technique dating back thousands of years, has been found to release opioids to help patients deal with pain. He notes that “Western scientist” had heard of it and “[dumped] it into a bucket of anthropological oddities—inscrutable Chinese herbalists sticking needles into people, Haitian shamans killing with voodoo curses, Jewish mothers curing any and all disease with their secret-recipe chicken soup.” OK, already eyebrow-raising but at least he acknowledged that they were dumping it into a bucket, although I would raise issue with how these are written off as “anthropological oddities”. “Western science” hasn’t yet figured out how they worked or bothered spending money researching into them but that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely nonsense just because they originated from a non-Western/non-white society.

But I haven’t come to my point about this chapter. The concern here is about how to tell if these techniques really were objectively efficacious or if they were some kind of cultural placebo, where the people within these societies have been raised to believe in the efficacy of it and therefore derived those benefits from them, even if they were objectively useless. Sapolsky then talks about a “prominent Western journalist” (see the continued emphasis on ‘Western’) being administered acupuncture in China for pain relief after an appendicitis surgery: ”He survived just fine. Hey, this stuff must be legit—it even works on white guys.” I quote this verbatim and Sapolsky doesn’t even seem to be writing this in any kind of satire. Non-Western techniques are only legitimized when they work on “white guys”. No matter how many countries and people have benefited from them in the past thousands of years, it’s obviously all bogus until “white guys” or “Western science” says they aren't. This language and concept is just so extremely problematic in this time and age.

So… I won’t go into the actual science of the book beyond what I summarized in my points above, because there’re plenty of reviews already that talk about it here. I just wanted this review to focus primarily on the points that probably a lot of people even today would glaze over but which I really think shouldn’t be ignored. The book’s science is solid and engaging, but my enjoyment of the book overall was dampened significantly by the casual racism peppered through the book.
Profile Image for uosɯɐS .
300 reviews
June 11, 2017
I've been wanting to read this ever since I saw a documentary on stress that included Sapolsky's research.

In the meantime, I've also become fairly interested in the human microbiome. So, this kinda played right into all of that... so as far as books, this was pretty much my introduction to the field of stress research, as well as how human digestion works and where hormones and neurotransmitters come from and what they can do, etc... that said, I did this one as an audiobook, which might not have been entirely appropriate to the level of detail contained. Maybe I should come back to it someday.
Profile Image for Abdullah Al-Abri.
162 reviews8 followers
January 14, 2017
الكتاب يتناول موضوع القلق وتاثيره على الجسم والانسان بشكل عام منذ قبل ولاده وحتى طفولته وحتى موته وهل يؤثر قلقه وقلق امه ومجتمعه ومن حوله عليه بطريقة مباشرة او غير مباشرة

وفي الختام يعطي نصائح على كيفية التخلص من القلق وا��تقليل منه

قرأة ممتعة للجميع
Profile Image for Kristina.
123 reviews
September 23, 2017
This manifestation of stress is going to my 'books to give friends as a gift' list. The topic is morbid but written in a way that makes it a must read for anyone interested in managing their own well being and avoiding brain shrinkage.
Profile Image for Doris Jean.
189 reviews29 followers
April 14, 2023
This is an excellent book, I don't know why I had such a hard time beginning it, I kept starting and stopping it for several years. Maybe this was because the writer has a somewhat rambling and loose style. Finally, I forced myself to get through the first few pages and the book got better and better once I relaxed into the writer's way of thinking.

It's an unusual book because it explains deep medical concepts for everyone, and it is a relaxed read considering the subject matter. It's a good review for doctors. The graphs are good. There are about fifty-five cartoons sprinkled throughout. There is an excellent section of Notes (almost a hundred pages) and a fairly skimpy index (he left out FOADS, lordosis, etc.). If you plan to read this book, do a quick overview study of glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids (cortisol, etc.) are powerful steroid hormones and are released from the adrenal cortex and are players in all body functions. Stress of every kind can release them.

Zebras don't get ulcers because they don't use their brains to think stressfully and worry as humans do. When survival is threatened, zebras instinctively react to flee or fight and that's the end of it. Humans have survival thoughts which are often imaginary, as in anxiety and panic attacks. Humans worry and stress themselves unnecessarily. That's my conclusion from the book, but there was much more information, especially about hormones and the nervous system and how behavior and body chemistry is influenced by thought. This book also reinforced for me a conclusion that joy and happiness and pleasure are probably more important than anything else for good health.

When we merely think, we stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary and adrenal glands (the "HPA axis") to release various extremely powerful physiological chemicals such as cortisol and adrenalin. Stress and negative thoughts can cause illness when our thoughts and feelings are too negative and and stress can release an imbalance of these powerful substances which can actually damage the brain with atrophy of the hypothalamus and loss of brain volume.

There are chapters dealing with heart disease, ulcers, bowel dysfunctions, sex, auto-immune diseases, AIDS/HIV, pain, addictions, diabetes, inflammation, sleep, depression, aging, memory, dwarfism, fetal touch and more – you name it. More and more, there seems to be a major psychological factor in most disease. Disease can start with thoughts.

My least favorite chapter was on "Cancer and Miracles" where the author calls Bernard Seigel's book "Love, Medicine and Miracles" gibberish and worse. Saporsky says "...inflamed me when first reading this book" and he spends three pages telling how horrible Seigel's book is. Saporsky is soundly against New Age spirituality. I have not read Seigel's book and I have not studied New Age thinking, but I thought much of Saporsky's book seems to support love, medicine and miracles, especially where he describes how important fetal touch is and how actual dwarfism can develop from lack of maternal love. His example is the author of "Peter Pan", J. M. Barrie who was only five feet tall from lack of love. Saporsky sounds just as New Age as Siegel. Hypocrisy?

Pregnant women should think happy thoughts because it's been shown that thoughts of the mother can physically affect the fetal brain. FOAD (the fetal origin of adult disease) shows dramatic metabolic imprinting from the mother. This imprinting includes the early programming of the fetal brain with lifetime imprinting of the cortisol axis. So it's not enough to keep stress out of your own life, you need to have had a happy, contented pregnant mother when you were a fetus.
Profile Image for Asim.
8 reviews7 followers
May 2, 2016
I enjoyed this book but think for most people this book will not be more than a 3.5* hence the rating. My bias is simply that I and am a big fan of Dr Sapolsky after attending his course on Human Behavioral Biology. He covers the driest of things with humor and charm. I would recommend the first four lectures to everyone.

Our body is designed to respond to stressful situations. We are, just like the zebra, wired to temporarily alter our physiology when a lion shows up during our leisurely afternoon stroll. The difference is the zebra goes back to regular life after, but humans seem to treat a myriad of situations as if the lion is back and the stress-response that the body goes through takes a toll on our bodies.

Take the cardiovascular system. When you see the lion (or have an important presentation or an impending difficult conversation), your body starts prepping and marshaling all the resources in the body to get the hell out of there. Your digestive tract shuts down, breathing rate skyrockets, the heart beats faster and your blood pressure goes up. This entire routine saves you from being lunch but is expensive in the long run. For example, as part of the response, the blood pounds through your veins and returns with deafening force to the heart. Now, if this happens very often, the walls of the heart will be forced to thicken to accommodate this regular flood and cause ventricular hypertrophy. In addition, if you chronically increase the force with which blood is coursing through the vessels they have to work harder, it needs more muscle, this thick layer of muscle makes it more rigid and more resistant to flow hence persistent high blood pressure.

As he describes it, your heart is basically a pump with hoses. Subject it to this treatment too often and it will wear out. He then goes on to cover ulcers, aging, sleep, metabolism etc.

The bottom line is this : Chill out and don’t kill yourself. If you want the details read the book, otherwise just remember that most of the stressors in your life are not really life-threatening so leave the panic for when you do meet the lion.
Profile Image for Chris Herdt.
199 reviews33 followers
May 12, 2010
This book is a good introduction to stress and its effects on physiology and psychology (Nicola's area of expertise). Although it is written for a lay audience, I often got the feeling it was written for a lay audience of primarily MDs.

By the end of the book, you will feel like you and epinephrine, norepinephrine, and glucocorticoids are all old friends--but in spite of the terminology, it is really an easy read and full of good humor and interesting anecdotes (e.g. hyenas are very peculiar).

Here is a quote, taken out of context, that I enjoyed:
"Every child cannot grow up to be president; it turned out that merely by holding hands and singing folk songs we couldn't end all war, and hunger does not disappear just by visualizing a world without it....Would that it were so. And shame on those who would sell this view."

You may not like all of his opinions. Sapolsky is an unapologetic atheist, but appears to have a high opinion of many religious people. He also speaks frankly about sex. He also believes in animal testing, although he thinks that some past tests went too far.
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