November 22nd, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
The social networking site Facebook is causing a new wave of physical and mental health problems, say researchers from Italy. According to their analysis, scientists say that Facebook has become “a new source of psychological stress” that is capable of inducing asthma attacks, particularly in those with preexisting asthmatic conditions.
Published in the British medical journal Lancet, the study cites the case of an 18-year-old man who experienced severe asthmatic symptoms due to using Facebook. After discovering that his ex-girlfriend had removed him from her “friends” list and moved on from the relationship, the man began having breathing problems, followed by an asthma attack. And every time he logged on and tried to pry his way back into her life, the symptoms returned.
“The [experience] seemed to induce dyspnea, which happened repeatedly on the patient accessing [his ex-girlfriend's] profile,” said doctors about the experience. Dyspnea, a condition in which a person experiences difficulty in breathing, can be aggravated by various life occurrences. But in the man from the study, his “peak expiratory flow” of air dropped by as much as 20 percent after using Facebook, which suggests that using the site can be hazardous to health.
Doctors say the best way to avoid Facebook-induced asthma attacks is to simply stop using the site. In fact, with the help of his psychologist, the man in the study was able to successfully stop logging in — and his asthma attacks then stopped as well.
The nature of Facebook encourages users to essentially broadcast every detail of their entire lives to their friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and even complete strangers. But the widespread negative effects of this massive new social experiment are only just beginning to be realized.
November 15th, 2010
Women with high job strain have a 40% increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those in less demanding posts, a US study suggests.
They have an 88% raised risk of a heart attack, and more chance of strokes and damage requiring coronary artery bypass surgery, researchers said.
Researchers from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital followed 17,415 healthy women for more than 10 years.
The study was presented to the American Heart Association.
Job strain, a form of psychological stress, is defined as having a demanding job that provides limited opportunity for decision making or to use one’s creative or individual skills.
The researchers also found job insecurity was also associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity – but not directly with poor cardiovascular health.
Stress can trigger the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which at persistently high levels are thought to damage the cardiovascular system.
It can also raise inflammation levels which are thought to destabilise the fatty plaques which build up in the blood vessels and can cause circulatory problems.
Experts are concerned that heart disease can be overlooked in women, as it is often mistakenly thought of as a male problem.
Women may have less common symptoms, such as back pain, burning in the chest, abdominal discomfort, nausea, or fatigue, which makes diagnosis more difficult.
They are also less likely to seek medical help, and tend to present late in the process of their disease.
Researcher Dr Michelle Albert said the study suggested job stress had both a short and long-term effect on cardiovascular health.
She also said it was crucial for employers to monitor job stress, and take action to try to alleviate it.
“Job stress results in absenteeism, sickness, and disability, which can reduce productivity and competitiveness,” she said.
Previous research has tended to focus on the impact of job stress on men.
Some critics believe it is not stress that causes heart problems – but the unhealthy behaviour, such as smoking and drinking, that some people adopt to try to cope with stress.
Ellen Mason, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the exact mechanism by which stress could change the body’s chemistry to raise the risk of heart disease had still to be pinned down.
But she said there was a growing body of research to suggest that it did have a damaging effect on the lining of the arteries.
December 3, 2009
by S. L. Baker
Transcendental Meditation (TM) first became well-known in the U.S. during the 1960s when the Beatles showed interest in studying the stress-reducing technique. But meditation hasn’t gone the way of love beads and flower power since then. In fact, various techniques, including TM, have received serious scientific scrutiny and researchers have documented many health benefits of meditation.
Now a $3.8 million study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has reached a first-ever finding: patients with coronary heart disease who practiced TM had a nearly 50 percent lower rate of heart attack, stroke, and death compared to a matched group that didn’t meditate.
The results of the study, which was conducted at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, were presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida. “Previous research on Transcendental Meditation has shown reductions in blood pressure, psychological stress, and other risk factors for heart disease, irrespective of ethnicity,” Robert Schneider, M.D., the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention, said in a statement to the media. “But this is the first controlled clinical trial to show that long-term practice of this particular stress reduction program reduces the incidence of clinical cardiovascular events, that is heart attacks, strokes and mortality.”
The randomized controlled trial followed 201 African American men and women for nine years. The research subjects had an average age of 59 and all were diagnosed with narrowing of arteries in their hearts. The study participants continued taking their regular medications and continued other usual medical care during the study. But half were randomly assigned to a group that practiced stress reducing TM and the other half were placed in a non-meditating group that received health education classes covering standard cardiovascular risk factors.
In addition to a dramatic reduction in the risk of death, heart attacks, and strokes in the TM group, the researchers found a clinically significant reduction in blood pressure. Mediation also reduced psychological stress in a sub-group of patients who were experiencing high levels of anxiety and other signs of stress.