MORE THAN A MACHINE:How the mind affects the body and its health

Just to confound those who think that E-news constitutes the blatherings of an ill-educated slob, let’s start with a really long word – psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology, which sounds like the supercalafragalistic of medicine. In fact it’s more like the anti-cartesian view of medicine, and takes the holistic view of the mind/body/spirit as a synergistic interchange. Most interesting of all, this new field of research is coming up with evidence to suggest we are far more than a man machine.
Here are a few examples, which show the impact on health of depression, a sense of hopelessness and anger, gathered by one of psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology’s advocates, Dr Robert Anderson:

Depression worsens outlook in coronary heart disease patients: In a study of 1,024 heart patients, those who were depressed suffered twice the level of poor health and three times worse quality of life than those who had a more positive attitude (Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; 290: 215-21).

Depression increases mortality rate after heart attack: In a study of 896 survivors of an acute heart attack, depressed patients were more than three times as likely to die in the first year than those who had a balanced attitude, even though all patients had the same level of care (Source: Psychosomatic Medicine, 1999; 61: 26-37).

Sense of hopelessness causes atherosclerosis: A study of 942 Finnish men found that those who had a ‘high’ sense of hopelessness saw an increase in artery thickening of nearly 20 per cent compared with those who had a positive attitude (Source: Atherosclerosis, Thrombotic and Vascular Biology, 1997; 17: 1490-95).

Anger can lead to coronary heart disease: People who often get very angry, so that anger becomes part of a personality trait, were nearly twice as likely to suffer heart disease than those whose angry outbursts are infrequent and moderate (Source: Circulation, 2000; 101: 2034-9).

Anger could trigger early coronary heart disease: Anger can cause myocardial ischemia, and it could be an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. A study of 1,055 men who had expressed or concealed anger or irritability increased their chances of developing heart disease by nearly four times. (Source: Archives of Internal medicine, 2002; 162: 901-6).

Grief can cause a heart attack: A group of 1200 men and 540 women were interviewed a week after suffering a heart attack, and researchers discovered that many had suffered the recent death of a loved one. Researchers estimate that the risk of a heart attack increases 14 times during the first 24 hours after the death of a close family member or friend, and then falls to eight times the risk during the following 24 hours, to six times in the third 24 hours, and then to two to four times the risk for the ensuing month. (Source: Family Practitioner News, 1996; 26: 8).

Social isolation and heart disease: People who had social groups of fewer than three people were more than twice as likely to suffer a fatal heart attack than those whose social groups were larger. Adjustments for income, hostility and smoking did not alter the risk of social isolation. (Source: Psychosomatic Medicine, 2001; 63: 267-72).

Relaxation reduces your risks: And finally, to end on a more positive note, researchers have discovered that people who learn relaxation and breathing techniques can reduce their risks of coronary heart disease. Researchers tested the theory on a group of 192 people aged between 35 and 64 who had high cholesterol, and who were smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day. Half were given information about stopping smoking and reducing animal fats in their diets, and they also participated in eight one-hour lessons on breathing, relaxation and meditation, while the rest were just given information about smoking and diet. Those in the meditation group had lowered blood pressure, and had fewer cases of angina, coronary heart disease, and fatal heart attack. (Source: British Medical Journal, 1985; 290: 1103-6).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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