Cells, strokes & stress

We used to be worlds apart……medical science and hypnotherapy. 

The placebo effect while well documented was unexplainable…..How could just believing something would work actually affect a physiological change. And not just for the little stuff either, the placebo effect has been seen in cancer remission, fertility, heart and lung disease recovery rates to name but a few.
Research in this area is now managing to bring our worlds a lot closer. Changing how you think affects the cellular environment, which affects the development of genetic markers in your DNA.

So research published this week has shown that when Mum and Dad got together and created a little single celled you, not only did you get a unique blend of their DNA you also got a map of instructions overlaid onto that DNA that manipulates how much those genes get to affect you. They can be silenced or boosted but most importantly the map is termed 'epigenetic.' Which means that ultimately environment is the deciding factor in how those cells develop. 

So……no longer single celled obviously, that epigenetic map is inside of every single cell in your body, all the new ones being created daily to replace the worn out ones and all with the ability to develop a little differently to whats gone before as the environment in which they flourish is changed by you.

So with that bit of background what's to be done.

Well in another paper an 11 year multiethnic study has too been published this week. It has studied the effects of negative emotions, particularly stress on the incidence of strokes and cardiovascular disease in a sample of 6700 people. 

Higher levels of stress, hostility and depressive symptoms are associated with significantly increased risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) in middle-age and older adults, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

A TIA is a stroke caused by a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain.

Researchers measured chronic stress in five domains: personal health problems, health problems of others close to the participant, job or ability to work, relationships and finances.

In follow-up for an additional 8.5 to 11 years, 147 strokes and 48 TIAs occurred.
Compared to people with the lowest psychological scores, those with highest scores were

• 86 percent more likely to have a stroke or TIA for high depressive symptoms.
• 59 percent more likely to have a stroke or TIA for the highest chronic stress scores.
• More than twice as likely to have a stroke or TIA for the highest hostility scores.
• No significant increased risk was linked to anger.

"There's such a focus on traditional risk factors - cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking and so forth - and those are all very important, but studies like this one show that psychological characteristics are equally important," said Susan Everson-Rose, Ph.D., M.P.H., study lead author and associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

These associations noted in the study were significant even when researchers accounted for age, race, sex, health behaviors and other known risk factors of stroke.
APA American Heart Association. (2014, July 15). "Increased stroke risk linked to high stress, hostility, depression." Medical News Today. Retrieved from

The FAST recognise stroke picture

Just maybe you can act even faster and change your psychological environment now.


Smoking & mental health

a picture of someone smoking
So we all know smoking is physically damaging. All of us smokers and ex-smokers know that and the kids taking up smoking know that and the non-smokers know that….and I really don't know anybody who doesn't know that.

Smoking isn't just about the physical though. And putting aside the establishment of a physical addiction and the consequential emerging belief that all the possible scary outcomes simply 'Wont happen to me!' A strong emotional dependency is formed.

Smokers tend to believe that cigarettes are emotionally beneficial, helping to ease stress and anxiety. They report smoking increases concentration and relaxation, stabilising their moods and even help to alleviate the symptoms of depression.

It is reported that even health professionals can be reluctant to advise people with mental health problems to stop smoking, in case quitting makes their mental health worse.
The authors of a new UK study published in the BMJ today report

"This pattern of behavior occurs in smokers with and without diagnosed mental disorders. Unsurprisingly, views about smoking predict whether or not people attempt to quit and whether or not they are successful."

a cigarette shaped liked a battery

Smokers say that when they haven't had a cigarette for a while they can experience irritability, anxiety and low mood. However they are most often confusing the physical aspect of nicotine withdrawal with the incorrect perceptions that smoking delivers calming and comforting emotional benefits. This is usually why they quit the quitting and take up the habit again.

So this study looked at loads of other studies and conducted its own experiment into the mental benefits of sticking with the ciggies as opposed to packing them in.
They tested smokers (average age 44 smoking about 20 a day) from the general population as well as patients suffering physical or psychiatric conditions and found that…..wait for it….

Quitting smoking improves all facets of mental health

And concluded that 
Measuring mental health status by anxiety, depression, positivity, stress and psychological quality of life, the researchers found that quitting smoking was associated with improvements in all of these factors.

This applied to the participants both in the general population and clinical patients - including people with mental health disorders.

Three broad explanations have been suggested, the researchers note, for associations between smoking and poor mental health:

• Smoking and poor mental health might have common causes
• People with poor mental health smoke as a coping mechanism for low mood and anxiety
• Smoking causes mental health problems or makes these problems worse.

Whatever the cause, the researchers believe that the relationship between smoking and mental health requires further attention. If smokers believe that their psychological wellbeing will be adversely affected by giving up, then they will be less likely to do so, which has implications for their physical wellbeing.

a man stuck in a prison of cigarettes