Terrorist acts cause clear and immediate damage – and do not always make victims directly affected by the violence. This is what New Zealand scientists suggest in an article recently published in the journal Neurology.
Researchers identified a timely, albeit expressive, increase in severe ischemic stroke (stroke) cases in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. The place was the scene of the massacre of 51 Muslims perpetrated by Brenton Tarrant. Other areas of New Zealand also saw an increase in stroke rates, albeit more modest.
A major stroke is a vascular disease caused by the sudden closure of an important artery that feeds a large area of the brain. In most cases, these obstructions result from sudden complications from already existing fat constriction in the arteries or from heart disease. Yes, the blood in a sick heart that can’t beat properly moves so slowly that it turns into a clot. The latter, which is expelled from the heart by a contraction, increases blood flow and can block a cerebral blood vessel.
The physiological basis for the act of terrorism to create a circulatory environment conducive to new strokes is not fully understood. However, we have some hypotheses. We know that a storm of emotions increases norepinephrine, a molecule that increases the risk of abnormal heart rhythms in excess. These disruptions increased noticeably in hospitals near the World Trade Center towers shortly after the September 11, 2001 attack. Some of these mismatches in heart rhythm increase the risk of stroke, although they are temporary. It is speculated that these changes may have increased in the New Zealand city as well.
Another theory was supported by the Psychobiology Research Group at University College London, which showed that extreme psychological stress excessively increased the activity of platelet aggregation, a central mechanism for the formation of clots which, when bulky, disrupt arterial flow.
The increase in strokes after the Christchurch seizure, as well as previous studies on the relationship between stress and vascular disease, show the existence of another discrete syndrome that is aroused by negative and intense emotions. This other syndrome has a larger radius of action and a longer wick.
It is tempting to imagine that the other syndrome coexists with the infectious effects of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus. Now the current pandemic is forcing a group of people to experience tragedy and create a constant alarm sound that sometimes scares the distance. Even so, mental disorders caused by the pandemic can, at least in some places, be compared with emotional disorders caused by terrorism. Hence, the other syndrome may worsen the number of deaths or consequences caused by the current health crisis.
We cannot yet say for sure that Covid-19 is affecting people’s health in the same way as the Christchurch massacre. However, there are publications showing that since the pandemic began in the US and the UK, there have been more deaths from cardiovascular diseases such as acute myocardial infarction and stroke.
This increase in deaths has other possible causes different from those of circulatory disorders caused by mental stress. The neurologist who writes here and many other colleagues have seen it several times. Individuals do not see a doctor for fear of leaving the house and becoming infected, which makes some diseases worse.
Another critical point: hospitals saturated with patients and with scarce resources can lose their effectiveness in carrying out appropriate diagnoses and treatments.
Undoubtedly, Covid-19 is developing different ways to harm health by inserting one syndrome into another syndrome.
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