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The Other Side of Cholesterol: How Negative Emotions Impact Heart Disease Part 2

The Other Side of Cholesterol: How Negative Emotions Impact Heart Disease Part 2


The Other Side of Cholesterol: How Negative Emotions Impact Heart Disease Part 2

by Elaine R. Ferguson, MD

A remarkable finding, that more heart attacks happen on Monday morning between 8:00 a.m. and 12 noon, than any other time of the week. Also, this finding is unique to humans, and is not found in any other animal. Scientists theorized that the occurrence of these heart attacks is not linked to bioryhythms, but is due to the psychological meaning of Monday morning, that happens to many people, after having 2 days off. Monday morning, unfortunately, means returning the a job of at best, minimal, if any satisfaction. And this recognition leads to the clustering of heart attacks. And made me wonder if fewer heart attacks might occur on Friday evening or during the weekend.

Many years ago, when I first went into practice, I encountered the granddaughter of a patient. She had several chronic conditions, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. I asked her how was her grandmother doing, since I hadn't seen her in a few months. "Grandmother's fine. She only gets sick when she's upset." I'd never heard anyone express that areness of the link between our emotions and our health so clearly.

A University of Chicago researcher, Dr. Susan Kobialka, followed AT&T executives during its national restructuring. It was an extremely stressful time for so many executives, as the number of heart attacks skyrocketed, to the point that a coronary care unit was created at Illinois Bell's corporate headquarters. But within this group of execs, there were those who thrived in the face of severe adversity. While they share the similar age and ethnicity, they held a different perspective, compared to their counterparts experiencing heart attacks. They possessed a commitment to their job, an amazing sense of challenge and excitement in response to adversity, as well as a critical perception of self-control.

I discovered a very fascinating study that caused me to change my approach to treating diseases in general and heart disease in particular. Stewart Wolf, MD, evaluated many residents of Roseto, Pennsylvania. This town, during the 1960s, had a rate of heart disease that was much lower than the national average. While they smoked cigarettes, ate a high fat diet, and consumed alcohol similar to average Americans, they were somehow protected form heart disease. Of course, most thought it was due to their genes. But its wasn't. The research determined that their close knit family and community structure somehow protected their hearts from becoming diseased with hardening to the arteries.

Dr. Wolf believed that their rate of heart disease would increase in the 1970s, as this town composed of primarily of first-generation Italian American families, lost their traditional ways and became more "Americanized." When they returned a decade later during the mid 1970s, the found that his prediction had come true. And twenty years after the initial visit, they returned in the 1980s, anticipating a lower level of heart disease, reflective of the national cholesterol reduction education initiative. Despite many of the resident's efforts to lower their cholesterol levels, stop smoking and exercise more, their heart disease rate continued to increase. The researchers determined that their way of life, their focus on materialism and "conspicuous consumption" blocked the anticipated decline.

Another important study conducted at the University of California, San Franciso, involving residents of Alameda County, Calfornia for several years. Researchers evaluated them and found that social isolation is an important risk factor for all dieases, including heart disease. Scientists around the world have also determined there is an association between the absence of social support and heart disease in humans as well as animals.

Yugoslavian research found that physical risk factors such as smoking are altered by psychological factors that are in fact greater predictors of death.

The Japanese culture is characterized by a high degree of social support. There is evidence that this may contribute to the low rate of heart disease in Japan and among Japanese-Americans who, like their Italian-American counterparts in Roseto, retain their traditional culture. A 1993 study of patients recovering from myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) found that those with lower amounts of emotional support were nearly three times as likely to die in six months as those with higher levels of emotional support.

About the Author:
Want to find out more about mind body medicine, then visit Elaine R. Ferguson, MD's site on how to choose the best heartdisease for your needs.

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