Wednesday December 11, 2019

Indian-born scientist attempts treating hearts via urban forests (Science Feature)

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Heart

Indian-born scientist Aruni Bhatnagar is all set to install a $14.50 million “unique urban laboratory” in the US that will study the effect of green plantations on combating cardiovascular diseases. His research interests include cardiovascular effects of environmental pollutants, atherosclerosis, injury from loss of blood to the heart muscle, cardiovascular complications of diabetes and sepsis.

“We think trees might be more effective than statins in combating heart disease,” Bhatnagar told IANS on phone from Louisville, Kentucky.

Bhatnagar’s work has led to the creation of the new field of environmental cardiology.

A Lucknow University graduate with a bio-chemistry doctorate from the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), also in Lucknow, he is a professor and university scholar with Louisville’s Institute of Molecular Cardiology. He is also a fellow with the American Heart Association.

The Green Heart project involves the University of Louisville, the Nature Conservancy, the Institute for Healthy Air, Land and Soil and other partners that will transform four South Louisville neighbourhoods, home to about 22,000 residents, with 8,000 trees and other plantings.

Bhatnagar said the trees will not be samplings but mature foliage which will make a difference right away. Trees, shrubs and other plants will be placed where they can best soak up lung-damaging air pollution within the study area.

Researchers will track the health of about 700 residents to ascertain cardiovascular response to the plantation.

He said green spaces breathe in their own way, taking up the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide while creating life-sustaining oxygen.

While trees produce volatile organic compounds — a source of ozone pollution — they also absorb ozone and other pollutants and trap especially dangerous tiny particles.

But “nobody has evaluated the specific health effects of planting green spaces”.

He said the effect of plantation on human health where people’s health is monitored before, during and after a major tree plantation drive has not been studied so far.

The health of people who live near the newly planted greenery will be compared to those who live elsewhere in the study area.

“We are hopeful to see changes in a few years,” he said. “It’s like a drug trial, with nature as the drug.”

Bhatnagar said he and his team wanted to test whether giving someone a statin for cardiovascular management is better or worse than giving one green surroundings.

In addition to studying cardiovascular health, researchers also plan to see if there are any changes in crime rates, stress, economics and other social-psycho outcomes.

Some studies suggest trees can help in those areas, too.

He said the Louisville research can be a potential game-changer in fighting heart disease.

“Though heart disease rates have been coming down, the rate has slowed and flattened out in the recent past. That’s why we thought we need to try something different,” he explained.

So far research has identified poor diet and lack of exercise with heart risk. We haven’t studied the impact of the environment in preventing or managing the cardiovascular situation in the urban population. About 70 percent of heart disease is preventable but it still accounts for the largest cause of deaths, Bhatnagar added.(IANS)

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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Listening to Music While Driving Can Reduce Cardiac Stress

In a Study, Listening to music attenuated the moderate stress overload the volunteers experienced as they drove

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Listening to Music can be a preventive measure in favour of cardiovascular health in situations of intense stress such as driving during rush hour. Pixabay

Stress while driving is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac complications such as heart attack, but now researchers have found that listening to Music while driving can reduce cardiac stress.

“We found that cardiac stress in the participants in our experiment was reduced by listening to music while they were driving,” said study lead author Vitor Engracia Valenti, Professor at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil.

For the study, published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, researchers analysed the effects of music on cardiac stress in five women between the ages of 18 and 23.

“We opted to assess women who were not habitual drivers because people who drive frequently and have had a license for a long time are better adapted to stressful situations in traffic,” Valenti explained.

The volunteers were assessed on two days, in different situations and in a random order.

On one day, they drove for 20 minutes at rush hour (5:30-6:30 pm) along a three km route in a busy district of Marilia, a medium-sized city in the northwest of Sao Paulo, without listening to music.

On the other day, the volunteers drove the same route at the same time of day but listened to instrumental music on a CD player coupled to the car radio.

The use of earbuds or headphones while driving is a traffic offense.

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Stress while driving is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac complications such as heart attack, but now researchers have found that listening to Music while driving can reduce cardiac stress. Pixabay

“To increase the degree of traffic stress, we asked them to drive a car they did not own. Driving their own car might help,” Valenti said.

The level of cardiac stress was estimated by measuring heart rate variability using a heart rate monitor attached to the participant’s chest.

Defined as fluctuations in the intervals between consecutive heart beats, heart rate variability is influenced by the autonomic nervous system.

The more active the sympathetic nervous system, the faster the heart beats, while the parasympathetic nervous system tends to slow it down.

“Elevated sympathetic nervous system activity reduces heart rate variability, whereas more intense parasympathetic nervous system activity increases it,” Valenti said.

Analysis showed a reduction in heart rate variability in the volunteers who drove without music, indicating a lower level of parasympathetic nervous system activity but sympathetic nervous system activation.

Conversely, heart rate variability increased in the drivers who listened to music, indicating a higher level of parasympathetic nervous system activity and a reduction in sympathetic nervous system activity.

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The level of cardiac stress was estimated by measuring heart rate variability using a heart rate monitor attached to the participant’s chest while listening to Music. Pixabay

However, the sample size used in the study was too small but significant.

“Listening to music attenuated the moderate stress overload the volunteers experienced as they drove,” Valenti said.

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“Listening to music could be such a preventive measure in favour of cardiovascular health in situations of intense stress such as driving during rush hour,” he said. (IANS)