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Health Capsules: Nov. 1

By: Lisa Russell


Hockey’s impact on the heart

Blues fans, take note: Watching a hockey game, either on TV or in the arena, may be hazardous to your health. A new study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, which looked at the effects of watching high-intensity hockey games on cardiovascular health, found reasons for caution for die-hard hockey fans – especially those with existing heart disease.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Montreal Heart Institute at the University of Montreal, included 20 healthy men and women over the age of 18. The participants were questioned about their general health, and also were asked to assess their level of support of, and passion for, the sport of professional hockey. They were then asked to wear a cardiac holter monitor as they watched a hockey game.

The research found that, compared to their baseline resting heart rates, watching the intense moments of a hockey game caused study participants’ heart rates to double in many cases. On average, they experienced a 75 percent increase in heart rate while watching a game on television – equivalent to a session of moderate exercise – and a 110 percent increase when they watched it in person, the same level of cardiac stress produced by strenuous exercise. Those peaks in heart rate also occurred more frequently than the researchers expected; viewers’ hearts were found to be racing during all scoring opportunities for either team throughout the entire game as well as any overtime played.

“[It] is not the outcome of the game that primarily determines the intensity of the emotional stress response, but rather the excitement experienced with viewing high-stakes or high-intensity portions of the game,” said Dr. Paul Khairy of the Montreal Heart Institute, the study’s leader. “The study raises the potential that the emotional stress-induced response of viewing a hockey game can trigger adverse cardiovascular events on a population level.”

The authors theorized that becoming emotionally involved in the excitement of sporting events can overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system of some spectators, and could weaken the heart over time. However, they conceded that “it remains to be determined whether the observed stress response translates into an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes.”

“[This] research raises public awareness about the potential role of emotional sports-related stressors in triggering cardiac events, and opens up avenues for future research into mitigating such risks,” Khairy added.

Previous research – which has involved professional sports other than hockey – has shown that people who already have coronary heart disease are more likely to have dangerous heart events as a result of watching sports. The Montreal Heart Institute study is the first to investigate the specific effects of watching hockey on the heart.

Barnes-Jewish kidney transplant program passes 5,000 mark

Surgeons on the transplant team at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center recently performed their 5,000th adult kidney transplant. The successful surgery, performed on a male kidney failure patient who received a living donation from his wife, marks a significant milestone for the program, which is one of the oldest and largest in the nation as well as one of the highest-ranked in terms of excellent patient outcomes.

“We are honored to have taken care of 5,000 kidney patients over more than 50 years and look forward to having a positive impact on the lives of many more,” said Jason Wellen, M.D., surgical director of the kidney and pancreas transplant programs.
The Barnes-Jewish transplant team currently averages more than 230 kidney transplant surgeries annually, and performs more than half of all kidney transplants in Missouri. For patients at Barnes-Jewish, the rate of acute organ rejection following a kidney transplant is less than 5 percent, one of the lowest rejection rates in the world. The hospital’s nephrology division, an integral part of the kidney transplant program, was ranked 9th in the country by U.S. News and World Report in 2017.

Are “bromances” the new relationship of choice for guys?

The rise of the “bromance,” which Merriam-Webster now officially defines as “a close, nonsexual friendship between men,” has been a hot topic over the past few years. Researchers say that shifting societal views that have led to a major decrease in homophobia, coupled with mens’ shared interests and more widespread acceptance of male emotionality, has increasingly led young men to pursue these relationships, which they describe as far deeper than traditional male friendships.

However, mens’ bromances also may be damaging their relationships with women. A small British study conducted at the University of Winchester recently found that young men often find their bromances more emotionally fulfilling than their romantic relationships with women, a development that its authors suggest could negatively affect male-female relations.

The researchers conducted extensive interviews with 30 undergraduate straight men at the university, and found that nearly all of them [28 participants] felt it was easier for them to overcome conflicts and express their emotions in their bromances than in their romances with women. They also felt less judged by their close male friends than by their girlfriends.

In general, the participants said that a bromance offers them increased emotional stability, easier emotional disclosure, more social satisfaction and improved conflict resolution compared to the emotional lives they shared with girlfriends.

“Young heterosexual men are now able to confide in each other and develop and maintain deep emotional friendships based on intimacy and on the expression of once-taboo emotional sentimentality,” said Stefan Robinson, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “There are, however, significant and worrying results here for women. These men perceived women to be the primary regulators of their behavior, and this caused disdain for them as a whole in some instances.”

The researchers suggest that the rise in bromances can be considered a progressive development in the relations between men, but that progress may come at a cost; for example, they suggested that increasing bromances could challenge traditional living arrangements between men and women. The study appeared in Men and Masculinities.

“Baby talk” is universal language of learning

No matter what language a mother is speaking, she instinctively alters her voice in a unique way when talking to her young infant, according to new research conducted at Princeton University and published in Current Biology.

When interacting with their babies, mothers switch into a special mode of speaking known as “motherese” or “baby talk,” an exaggerated and somewhat musical form of speech. While it may sound silly to other adults, research has shown that baby talk plays an important role in babies’ language learning, by highlighting language structure in an engaging way to help babies recognize syllables and sentences.

In the new study, researchers at Princeton have identified another unique feature of the way mothers talk to their babies: They shift the timbre of their voices in a specific way, which holds true regardless of a mother’s native language.

“Timbre is best defined as the unique quality of a sound,” explained Elise Piazza, a postdoctoral research associate at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and the study’s leader. “We use timbre, the tone color or unique quality of a sound, all the time to distinguish people, animal and instruments. [For example,] Barry White’s silky voice sounds different from Tom Waits’ gravelly one – even if they’re both singing the same note.”

The researchers recorded 12 English-speaking mothers while they played with and read to their infants, who were between seven and 12 months old. They also recorded the same mothers while they spoke to another adult. After measuring the timbre of each mother’s voice to create a unique  vocal “fingerprint,” the researchers found that a computer could reliably tell the difference between infant- and adult-directed speech – even based on a single second of speech data.

They then recruited another group of 12 mothers who spoke nine different languages, including Spanish, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, German, French, Hebrew, Mandarin and Cantonese. Again, they found that the timbre change observed in the English-speaking mothers was highly consistent when mothers spoke to their babies in all of these languages as well.

The researchers said their next step is to explore in more detail how the mothers’ timbre shift helps infants in learning language. They theorized that the mothers’ unique timbre fingerprint could help babies learn to differentiate and direct their attention to their own mother’s voice from the time they are born. They also added that while this study was done in mothers only to keep the vocal pitches more consistent, the results likely will apply to fathers, too.


On the calendar

St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Family and Friends® CPR course from 9-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4 at St. Louis Children’s Specialty Care Center, 13001 N. Outer Forty Road in Town & Country. The course is intended for parents, grandparents, teenagers who babysit [ages 10 – 15 if accompanied by an adult] and childcare providers. It includes instruction in infant, child and adult CPR, first aid for choking and the use of AEDs when appropriate, but does not include certification upon completion. The course fee is $25 per person. To register, call (314) 454-KIDS.

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Area residents are encouraged to participate in an American Red Cross blood drive from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11 at Manchester United Methodist Church, 129 Woods Mill Road in Manchester.  To register for an appointment time, visit redcrossblood.org.

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Cholesterol and glucose wellness screenings are offered from 8-10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 10 at St. Luke’s Women’s Center, 6 McBride & Son Corporate Center Drive in Chesterfield. Tests include cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure and body composition measurements as well as a one-on-one consultation with a registered nurse/health coach. A 10- to 12-hour fast and advance appointments are required. The fee is $20 for all screenings. Register online at stlukes-stl.com.

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A free information session on non-surgical weight loss options is available from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Medical Office Building 3, 1020 N. Mason Road in Creve Coeur. For more information and to register, visit barnesjewishwestcounty.org or call (314) 542-9378.

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