Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Read It and Weep: Crying Is Healthy, Doctor Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Read It and Weep: Crying Is Healthy, Doctor Says

Article excerpt

REAL MEN don't cry.

And that may help explain why men don't generally live as long as women, says Dr. William Frey, research director at HealthPartners' Dry Eye and Tear Research Center at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center.

Frey, who has studied crying since 1979 and wrote a book on the topic in 1985, thinks shedding tears may be the body's mechanism for flushing out some of the harmful chemicals produced during periods of stress, thereby breaking the chain of events that leads to heart disease and brain damage.

"The effects of stress on the heart and brain are becoming very clear," Frey says. "While a lot of factors are involved, crying is one that should be investigated first."

Scientists have yet to make direct connections between stress, tears, heart attacks and Alzheimer's disease. But they are beginning to find some interesting hints.

For instance, researchers at Harvard University have found that people who lose a friend, relative or loved one face a risk 14 times greater than normal of suffering a heart attack the day after the death, and five times the risk two days after the traumatic event.

The researchers theorize that atherosclerotic disease probably had already narrowed their arteries and that acute stress triggered a chain of physiologic events that shut off the flow of blood to their hearts.

Although he's only speculating, Frey believes that people who cry after such traumatic events are less likely to suffer heart attacks than those who don't shed tears. He has offered to collaborate with the Harvard researchers on a study to determine whether that is indeed true.

Meanwhile, London researchers writing in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet recently outlined how stress adversely affects the hippocampus, a region deep in the brain involved in learning and memory. They suspect stress might be involved in either triggering Alzheimer's or making it worse.

Other studies show that stress triggers a series of hormonal releases that causes a 30 percent drop in glucose uptake in the hippocampus. Since glucose is the brain's only source of energy, the drop causes brain cells to die, Frey said.

Scientists also know that stress reduces the production of a certain type of nerve growth factor found in the hippocampus by as much as 50 percent. …

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