Angela Merkel trembles. Experts agree: In the stressful political job, reporting on the state of health creates even more pressure.
Videos are not enough
The guesswork in the German media continues anyway. The Leipziger Volkszeitung quotes the chief physician of the Clinic for Neurology / Clinical Neurophysiology and the Parkinson’s Clinic Neustadt in Schleswig-Holstein, Uwe Jahnke. He says: “After seeing the videos, I think it’s quite possible that it’s an orthostatic tremor. This is an extremely rare but harmless explanation, in which tremors usually occur only when standing.” As soon as you get moving, the tremors let go. This was also the case with Merkel in all three recent cases.
In any case, the Southgerman newspaper points out that a glance at a video clip is not enough. The chancellor herself has made it clear that she is not prepared to give further information: “I believe that what I have said about it has been made today, and I believe that a statement that I am doing well can be accepted.”
It is also clear that the reports touch on a very sensitive area between the public interest in the health of elected officials and the privacy that everyone, whether a small civil servant or chancellor, is entitled to. And, according to doctors in the German media, they could above all also have a negative impact on the chancellor’s condition – namely, if the talk about Merkel’s health continues to put pressure on Merkel. It could be another of many stress factors that politicians are at the mercy of in their daily work.
The effects of chronic stress on health are well researched. Basically, stress is not negative, but a vital and normal physiological process. It ensures that people accept challenges and are efficient. In acute stress fulcrums, stress hormones are produced in the brain, which reach all organs via the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. This activates the immune system and release hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol. In addition, blood sugar levels rise at short notice and provide a temporary energy boost.
However, if the stress becomes chronic, the body is on permanent alert. “What is important is not the prevention of stress, but the correct handling of it,” says the Viennese neurologist Wolfgang Lalouschek. In the absence of phases of regeneration, the overproduction of cortisol not only leads to an increased release of insulin, but also to poorer blood flow to all organs and to an increase in blood pressure, a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Cortisol also ensures that the body produces less melatonin and serotonin. A lack of these hormones causes permanently stressed people to sleep poorly, the body has hardly any more opportunities to regenerate. The result is increased fatigue, lack of concentration and an increased risk of depression.
It is probably no coincidence that relatively many leaders are getting sick. Politics is an unhealthy bone job that allows hardly any free time. Even on holiday, Merkel and co must be constantly available. Helmut Schmidt had a life-threatening heart muscle inflammation in 1980, followed by a heart attack in 2002. Horst Seehofer also had a heart muscle infection. Asking Angela Merkel again and again about her state of health and building up stress is certainly not health-promoting.