Smoke exposure in early life and Rheumatic Heart Disease

david-phillipsDavid Phillips

Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is caused by a bacterial (streptococcal) throat infection acquired in childhood.  Although this type of infection is common and widespread, a small proportion of children so affected go on to develop an inflammatory condition that leads to scarring and narrowing of the heart valves and, in time, heart failure. Early on in the course of the disease the joints may be affected – hence the term “rheumatic”.

Still an important disease
At one time Rheumatic Heart Disease was common throughout the UK, Europe and the US; it was the most important cause of heart disease among young adults in Victorian Britain and probably caused the death of Mozart.  Although rare now in most developed countries, it remains an important public health problem in many low and middle income countries. The disease is widespread in the Middle East and Asia, and the the poor indigenous populations of some wealthy countries, for example among Australian Aboriginees and New Zealand Maoris. It is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is one of the commonest causes of heart disease, typically affecting children or young adults. There it carries a grim prognosis because of the lack of specialised treatment. Continue reading “Smoke exposure in early life and Rheumatic Heart Disease”

Increased risk of heart attacks – An unmeasured cost of the war on drugs in Mexico

Eileen Lee and Tim Bruckner

Bruckner PicLee Pic 3_croppedSince the start of the Mexican Drug War in December 2006, over 100,000 people have been murdered and over 20,000 are still missing. The escalation of violence has led to questions regarding the legitimacy and ability of political institutions, including law enforcement, to protect the public. A yet unmeasured cost of the drug war, related to living in an insecure environment, is the increased risk of dying from a heart attack.

We recently found that heart attack deaths among the elderly rose in months when Mexico’s homicide rate also rose. Our study adds to the growing literature on the collateral consequences of violence among persons who do not directly know the perpetrators or the victims. We believe that a threat, or perceived threat, to security from Mexico’s rising homicides, and the attendant media coverage, may have induced a stress response that triggered an excess of heart attacks. Given the high homicide rate in Mexico, the country provided a reasonable setting for us to test how population health responds to threats to security. Continue reading “Increased risk of heart attacks – An unmeasured cost of the war on drugs in Mexico”

Waterpipe smoking might be just as harmful as smoking cigarettes

Reem Waziry and Elie Akl

Elie_Akl[1] Reem Waziry headshotWaterpipe, also known as shisha, goza, narghile, arghile and hookah, is a traditional method for smoking tobacco. While it originated in Turkey, India and Iran, its use has spread on a global level over the past decade to the point of being labelled a global epidemic.

There are a number of explanations for the global spread of waterpipe tobacco smoking. First, people use it as a way to socialize, as it is smoked in groups. Second, the production of sweetened and flavoured tobacco (Maassel), resulting in aromatic and smooth smoke, can make it more appealing than cigarette smoking. Another major reason is a common misconception that waterpipe tobacco smoking is not harmful, or is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Continue reading “Waterpipe smoking might be just as harmful as smoking cigarettes”

Parents: does size matter?

Linsay Gray

This article originally appeared on the OUPblog on 31 October 2012: http://blog.oup.com/2012/10/parental-height-children-health/

What can the height of a person tell us about them and their children? Although determined to an extent by genes, the height of a fully grown man or woman can be considered as a ‘marker’ of the circumstances they experienced early in life. These childhood circumstances include illness, living conditions, diet, and maybe even stress. Such early life circumstances have been shown to be linked to health risks later in life. In fact, the height of an individual is also linked with their chance of developing chronic health conditions. Taller people are at lower risk of heart disease, for example.

But what about the height of their parents? One may wonder if that could have an effect? Evidence from studies of animals indicates that poor health which is caused by challenging circumstances during development early in life may be transmitted from generation to generation. Continue reading “Parents: does size matter?”