Lab Notes #5: On the Causes and Costs of Stress, along with the Hazards of Humans’ Best Friend

A short stack of questions and answers from recent healthcare news:

What are the costs associated with stress about money? 
What are the downfalls of dogwalking while aging?

This time last year, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study about the impact of the 2008 recession on blood pressure levels and blood glucose of study subjects.

The larger effects plagued the following groups (which, when you think about it, is a whole lot of people):

  • “younger adults (i.e., those more likely still in the labor force);
  • “older homeowners (whose declining home wealth likely reduced a key element of their financial security)”; and
  • people taking medication–who, in turn, reduced their medication use and the intensity of their treatment. Yikes.

Similar results were found in a recent study in Circulation. In brief: the subjects included adults ages 23 to 35. The independent variable was income volatility (a drop in annual earnings of >25%), and the dependent variables included cardiovascular disease and mortality.

“They found with more income volatility, there was a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and ultimately mortality,’ said Cleveland Clinic’s Luke Laffin, M.D., who did not take part in the study. “Of course, this is an association, so it doesn’t mean that one necessarily causes the other, but it was a relatively robust association that they did find.”

That risk was two-fold, and an intervening factor might be the access to healthcare, as subjects might be ignoring their medical needs between jobs, due to lapses in health insurance (or simply the sticker shock of acting now).  Dr. Laffin notes, “Often, when we’re young, we think we’re invincible, but medical problems can add up.”

Researchers find that dogs provide their comfort and stress release, for owners and passersby, too. But those findings have their age limits, according to a new study in the Journal of American Medical Association. Senior citizens appear with “canine fractures” at a regular clip at the Cleveland Clinic and elsewhere. In their analysis of 14 years of data about people age 65 and older visiting 100 different emergency rooms, researchers find a jump in the number of injuries incurred while walking a dog on a leash–and women are overrepresented in this group. A hip fracture is especially alarming, since 20 percent of women and 40 percent of men die within one year of such an injury.

wheatenSure: it’s great to have a spirited dog, but a dog that’s been trained to behave by a professional might decrease your daily stress and your risk of injury while walking your canine pal.

And here’s a picture of Seamus, my rascal of a Wheaten terrier.

Woof!