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Heart Scan Study

The Heart Scan Study is an investigation of the psychobiological processes through which variations in socioeconomic status and psychosocial adversity influence coronary heart disease risk. It is based on the hypothesis that lower social position and greater psychosocial adversity affect cardiovascular, inflammatory, metabolic and neuroendocrine responses to stress, and these in turn accelerate the progression of coronary atherosclerosis. Both the magnitude and duration of psychobiological stress responses maybe relevant.

The study is being carried out with more than 600 volunteers from the Whitehall II cohort. The methods being used are similar to those we employed for the Whitehall Psychobiology Study. Each person undergoes a laboratory session in which biological responses to standardised challenges are assessed. They complete questionnaire measures of chronic life stress, social support, psychological state and other variables. Measures of coronary atherosclerosis are being taken using electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) to assess coronary calcification. At present, data collection is entering it's second phase and participants are being followed-up to assess progression of coronary calcium scores. The study is due to complete in 2010/11.

This study is funded through a programme grant from the British Heart Foundation. Collaborators include Professor Sir Michael Marmot (UCL) and Dr Avijit Lahiri (Cardiac Imaging and Research Centre, Wellington Hospital). People involved in this study include Mark Hamer, Romano Endrighi, Bev Murray, Andrew Wawrzyniak, and Lena Brydon.

Key references:

Hamer, M., O’Donnell, K., Lahiri, A., and Steptoe, A. (2010). Salivary cortisol responses to mental stress are associated with coronary artery calcification. European Heart Journal, 31, 424-429.

Hamer, M., Kivimäki, M., Lahiri, A., Yerramasu, A., Deanfield, J.E., Marmot, M.G., and Steptoe, A. (2010). Walking speed and subclinical atherosclerosis in healthy odler adults: the Whitehall II study. Heart, 96, 380-384.

Hamer, M., Kivimaki, M., Lahiri, A., Marmot, M.G., and Steptoe, A. (in press). Persistent cognitive depressive symptoms are associated with coronary artery calcification. Atherosclerosis,

Steptoe, A., Hamer, M., O’Donnell, K., Venuraju, S., Marmot, M.G., and Lahiri, A. (2010). Socioeconomic status and subclinical coronary disease in  the Whitehall II Epidemiological Study. PLoS One, 5, e8874.

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