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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping

Henry Holt,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Your body hits overdrive when a lion chases you – and when you worry. No lions? Then don’t worry. It’s bad for you.

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Your body is a sophisticated machine. If it were an automobile, it would be a top-of-the-line, luxury-class vehicle with all of the latest options. There’s just one problem: Your body was designed for the savannas of Africa, not the streets and sidewalks of some urban metropolis. This is a major issue due to one of your body’s great fail-safe systems: the stress-response mechanism, also called the “fight-or-flight syndrome.” This mechanism provides your body with its best chance to get away safely from sudden peril, such as when a lion attacks you. It immediately floods your muscles with robust energy. Thus strengthened, you are far more able to evade the hungry predator. Unfortunately, this same stress-response also kicks in during psychological stress. In much of modern city life (even without stalking lions), such stress is often chronic, making your stress-response mechanism work dangerously overtime, and putting your body at risk of numerous stress-related disorders and diseases. Robert M. Sapolsky, a leading neuroendocrinologist, explains it all in this lively and entertaining, yet highly informative book. He writes with delightful, ironic verve and dry, irrepressible wit. He details how chronic stress can undermine your health, and explains what you can do about it, even in the urban jungle. getAbstract feels calmer just suggesting that anyone experiencing stress could benefit from reading this book.


Lions and Tigers and Zebras, Oh My!

A zebra on an African savanna lives a less complicated life than the average urban-dwelling human – but it is in far more danger. A zebra, indeed, all savanna animals, must routinely contend with severe, acutely physical crises. While grazing, resting or just ambling along, a zebra must be ready to race away in a split second if a large predator, such as a lion or tiger, suddenly appears. Similarly, a lion must be instantly ready to stalk and pursue the zebra. Otherwise, the predator can’t eat. Physically challenging activities like racing away from predators or attacking prey are hugely stressful.

Today, most people do not have to deal with lions. Instead, they face daily psychological or social disruptions: worrying about taxes, getting along with relatives, feeling inadequate, being overlooked for promotion, fretting about feeling ill and a million other things. Such worries represent severe, sustained psychological stress.

Return briefly to that sweltering savanna, home of the alert zebra and the hungry lion. Both animals possess “physiological response mechanisms” that are perfectly adapted to deal with their immediate...

About the Author

Robert M. Sapolsky is a professor of biological sciences, neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. He conducts research on stress and neuron degeneration. In 1987, he received a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant.

Comment on this summary

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    S. S. 9 months ago
    Interesting read.
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    M. H. 1 year ago
    interesting, i am now following few thing to do
  • Avatar
    M. J. 2 years ago
    I can now say I have Chronic Stress and will be talking with my Doctor soon

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