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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping (2nd Edition) Perfect Paperback – April 15, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0716732105 ISBN-10: 0716732106 Edition: 2nd
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Why don't zebras get ulcers--or heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases--when people do? In a fascinating look at the science of stress, biologist Robert Sapolsky presents an intriguing case, that people develop such diseases partly because our bodies aren't designed for the constant stresses of a modern-day life--like sitting in daily traffic jams or growing up in poverty. Rather, they seem more built for the kind of short-term stress faced by a zebra--like outrunning a lion.

With wit, graceful writing, and a sprinkling of Far Side cartoons, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers makes understanding the science of stress an adventure in discovery. "This book is a primer about stress, stress-related disease, and the mechanisms of coping with stress. How is it that our bodies can adapt to some stressful emergencies, while other ones make us sick? Why are some of us especially vulnerable to stress-related diseases, and what does that have to do with our personalities?"

Sapolsky, a Stanford University neuroscientist, explores stress's role in heart disease, diabetes, growth retardation, memory loss, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. He cites tantalizing studies of hyenas, baboons, and rodents, as well as of people of different cultures, to vividly make his points. And Sapolsky concludes with a hopeful chapter, titled "Managing Stress." Although he doesn't subscribe to the school of thought that hope cures all disease, Sapolsky highlights the studies that suggest we do have some control over stress-related ailments, based on how we perceive the stress and the kinds of social support we have.


"Sapolsky is one of the best science writers of our time.”--Oliver Sacks

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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 434 pages
  • Publisher: W. H. Freeman; 2nd edition (April 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716732106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716732105
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of several works of nonfiction, including A Primate's Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone, and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. He is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. He lives in San Francisco.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Atheen on November 6, 2000
Format: Perfect Paperback
This is possibly the best anatomy-phys book I've ever read, and as a nurse I've read a few! Now don't get stressed out here! I truely mean it, this one is fun. No formulae to memorize, no complicated Krebs Cycles to navigate, no difficult Latin origin and insertion sites to locate, just pure fun. The author has the knack--no let's call it for what it really is, a rare gift--for taking the dry facts of biological functioning and making an amusing but clearly informative tale of it all. Dr Sapolsky has a purpose beyond the mere dissemination of information on anatomy physiology of humans, zebras, lab rats, or baboons to the lay person. His intention is to show that the modern lifestyle, and how the individual reacts to it, can have a major impact on health and even on the economy of the country. I'd recommend the book to anyone with an interest in how the body works as wonderfully as it does, to those who wonder why they get sick when they're stressed out but their neighbor never seems to, to those who want to lead a healthier lifestyle and need a little background information to get started, and to high school or college students who can't quite get into that biology class because the content seems too difficult--or just plain too boring--to manage.
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139 of 147 people found the following review helpful By Joe Holzhauer (holzhauerj@missouri.edu) on November 18, 1999
Format: Perfect Paperback
As a veterinary student, I was searching the shelves of our library looking for a different book when I stumbled onto Sapolsky's work. Intrigued by the title, I read through the preface and was immediately hooked. I checked the book out and read it cover to cover that night--in spite of my other responsibilities.
Sapolsky has a true talent for simplifying the complex, without patronizing the reader or diluting the facts. Even with a few years of vet school behind me, I still found myself learning something from every page. Not only that, but I was looking forward to reading each page, wondering what hilarious story or anecdote would come next.
I wish I had read Dr. Sapolsky's work before I had taken first-year physiology. I would have been far better off.
[As a side note, I was touched by the dedication.]
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 6, 1998
Format: Perfect Paperback
Having sufferred a heart attack at age 50 in July 1998, I have been searching for solid credible information to explain the common question, "Why me?".
Sapolosky addressed all of my difficult questions and some that I hadn't thought of. His easy to read style and humourous personality makes his serious topic more appealing.
Cardiologists in my area do not accept stress as one of the major risk factors in heart disease. Having had virtually ongoing job stress and periodic family crises such depression, a brain tumour, job loss, involuntary job reassignments and now bonafide heart disease, it is my personal phsyican's opinion that "stress" is one of the major factors of heart disease and also plays a role in other serious diseases such as ulcers, colitis, memory, sex and aging and depression.
Saplolsky addresses the main questions and issues in a very readable and guides the reader to options and solutions for developing a personal action plan.
Highly recommended to spouses, supporters and people who are willing to acknowledge that stress might be a factor in their health.
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82 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 7, 2003
Format: Perfect Paperback
Having just finished Robert Sapolsky's very funny A Baboon's Memoir, the funniest autobiography by a naturalist I've ever read, I thought I'd look up his other popular books, the other one being The Trouble with Testosterone. Sapolsky is considered the country's foremost authority on stress. I have some background in stress research myself, and once heard the originator of the stress concept and of stress research, the great Hans Selye, speak at a convention many years ago, who Sapolsky mentions in his books.
Most of us know we should do a better job of managing stress in our lives, including myself. This is the sort of book I plunge into with a combination of morbid fascination and hypochondriacal paranoia. This is because the book itself was rather stressful to read, since I found out in manifold and gory detail about all the damage I'd been doing to my brain and body with all those high-paying but high-stress jobs I've had all my life. Although I made good money, I found out that I'd probably aged myself about 10 years in the process. However, as I said, the book makes for fascinating if somewhat morbid reading. For those with the adrenal cojones to handle it, this is the best book on the nature of stress and its effects that I've read. It's more a book on the physiology of stress, and so there isn't much on practical coping strategies, so if you're interested in information on that, you'll have to look elsewhere.
That having been said, I thought I would mention the best strategy I've ever encountered, of which I'm sure Sapolsky would approve, since it's based on some sound research in the area, and relates to one of his main points. Sapolsky makes a convincing case that we evolved for a very different stress regimen than our current lives and civilization provides.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Erika Mitchell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 5, 2002
Format: Perfect Paperback
This book provides an excellent introduction to the physiology of stress and stress hormones. Although it includes a few suggestions for stress reduction at the end, this is much more of a science book than a self-help book. Starting from the first chapter, Sapolsky describes the hormones that the body produces in stressful conditions, and the effects that the those hormones have on the various systems of the body. Throughout the book, Sapolsky reminds us that he is describing truly stressful situations--such as when an individual is being chased by a lion. In such situations, the stress hormones concentrate energy to the muscles needed for escape, and bring long-term processes such as digestion to a halt. This is great for escaping from lions, but if stressful conditions continue or are frequent, the effects brought about by these hormones can lead to a reduced immune system response, depression or heart disease, among other problems. Sapolsky also describes how the response to stressors differs across individuals, and how certain groups of people are more prone to stress and stress-related diseases than others. The book is quite dense, and can't be read in an afternoon. However, Sapolsky's writing is exceptionally clear and enjoyable. It's one of the best written general science books that I've come across in quite a while.
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