Monday, 25 February 2008

The Risks of Football

A report into the risks of watching football:

Ute Wilbert-Lampen et al. Cardiovascular Events during World Cup Soccer, The New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 358(5): 475-483, Jan 31, 2008.
Viewing a stressful soccer match more than doubles the risk of an acute cardiovascular event. In view of this excess risk, particularly in men with known coronary heart disease, preventive measures are urgently needed.
and BBC report.

Interesting to see that immune system cell functioning is suggested as a possible mechanism. From our research, this struck us as highly relevant in many cases of chronic heart disease.

It's also worth thinking about why people get so emotionally involved in football matches. Perhaps Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch offers the best insight from fiction.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Anger and wound healing

We've discussed wound healing before. Now more interesting research from the laboratory of Kiecolt-Glaser in Ohio State University.

Gouin, J.-P. et al., The influence of anger expression on wound healing, Brain Behav. Immun. (2007) doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2007.10.013.
Certain patterns of anger expression have been associated with maladaptive alterations in cortisol secretion, immune functioning, and surgical recovery. We hypothesized that outward and inward anger expression and lack of anger control would be associated with delayed wound healing. A sample of 98 community-dwelling participants received standardized blister wounds on their non-dominant forearm. After blistering, the wounds were monitored daily for 8 days to assess speed of repair. Logistic regression was used to distinguish fast and slow healers based on their anger expression pattern. Individuals exhibiting lower levels of anger control were more likely to be categorized as slow healers. The anger control variable predicted wound repair over and above differences in hostility, negative affectivity, social support, and health behaviors. Furthermore, participants with lower levels of anger control exhibited higher cortisol reactivity during the blistering procedure. This enhanced cortisol secretion was in turn related to longer time to heal. These findings suggest that the ability to regulate the expression of one’s anger has a clinically relevant impact on wound healing.
They conclude
...this is the first study showing that difficulty in anger regulation can lead to delayed healing. Furthermore, an exacerbated cortisol response to stress appears to explain the relationship between lower anger control and wound repair, although other physiological pathways may mediate the association between anger regulation and healing.
Media report here.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Whitehall Revisited

More on the health of Whitehall Civil Servants (article, BBC report):
This study adds to the evidence that the work stress–CHD association is causal in nature. We demonstrate, within a population of office staff largely unexposed to physical occupational hazards, a prospective dose–response relation between psychosocial stress at work and CHD over 12 years of follow-up. We confirm, during the same exposure period, the plausibility of the proposed pathways involving behavioural mechanisms, neuroendocrine and autonomic activation, and development of risk factor clustering, represented by the metabolic syndrome. Further, those who are older (and are more likely to be retired and less exposed to work stress) are less susceptible to the work psychosocial effect, presenting a coherent pattern in our findings. This study demonstrates that stress at work can lead to CHD through direct activation of neuroendocrine stress pathways and indirectly through health behaviours.
This is part of the Whitehall II study, which I've mentioned before. Long-term, large-scale, prospective studies of this kind are, of course, very welcome. But naturally we'd like to see these balanced by lifelong individual studies, so that we can get beyond the non-specificity of the stress construct.