This is a research article review research paper from Clinical Science issue 2012 titled, “You may need the vagus nerve to understand the pathophysiology and to treat disease.” The research article writes about treating the vagus nerve, located in the upper neck, reduces the health risk of major diseases which are inflammatory reactions, increased oxidative stress, and excess stress responses. The vagus nerve activity can be measured by a non-invasive evaluation by Heart Rate Variability.
Frequent causes of death that are worldwide have been attributed to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Another category that has been on the rise has been the Metabolic Syndrome. This syndrome includes risk factors of obesity, elevated blood lipids, elevated glucose, and blood pressure. All of these diseases and risk factors are manifested differently in clinical science and the screening process, complex treatments, prevention measures are expensive! This paper is attempting to suggest a screening process of pre-medical conditions before they start to have morbid diseases and health risks.
The hypothesis of this research paper is linking all the high-risk health factors have a common problem with the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a nerve that is extending from the brain stem down and front of the neck and travels down in most of the vital internal organs. (https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1875813-overview#a1) This vagus nerve can be evaluated by Heart Rate Variability which is an in invasive and non-expensive assessment.
The article proposes three hypothesis on how the vagus nerve is involved.
Hypothesis 1: Better Vagal Nerve Activity, Reduced Risk
Hypothesis 2: Vagus Nerve Keeps the Stress response and inflammation in check
Hypothesis 3: Poor Vagus Nerve Function means higher risk for a disease.
Solution: Heart Rate Variability Assessments:
Heart Rate Variability is an assessment that measures the beat-to-beat variation in heart rate. This natural rise and fall of heart rate are caused by several physiologic phenomena, including breathing and autonomic nervous system activity. Healthcare professionals utilize HRV for a wide variety of clinical applications. Previous blog (https://zenchiropractic.wordpress.com/2013/04/) has mentioned how this is a way to measure the performance of the vagus nerve.
Health Risk Factors
There are health risk factors that lead to major diseases like the cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s diseases. The following three are the major steps that lead to major diseases:
- Oxidative Stress
- Excessive Stress Response
For more information about these steps, scroll further down for a more detailed summary of the article.
Oxidative stress is a condition where free radicals are flowing through your bloodstream. It is an unstable molecule that can damage cells by damaging the molecular structure of the cell. A free radical is a single person showing up to couples only dance party and stealing a partner from one of the couples thus creating a chain reaction. Simple a molecule needs even-electron ions to stabilize and a free radical is uneven and desperately wants to be even. To counter this situation it always adds antioxidants which neutralize the free radical.
Oxidative stress occurs when the free radicals are overwhelming the antioxidants and leading to damaging cellular structures such as DNA. Damaging the DNA of the cell can lead to transforming them into malignant cells. Also, oxidative stress can damage LDL, which carry cholesterol and create promotion of inflammation for plaques in the arteries in the heart and lead to cardiovascular diseases. This same process can happen in the artery of the brain and that leads to stroke and damaging nerve cells in the brain.
Inflammation isn’t an evil, it is a necessary process for the body to heal. It is the amount of inflammation that causes more risks. Normally inflammation is like construction or house remodeling. Your house or building is the body and all the construction and remodeling will cause an increase of dust, extra equipment in the hallways, plastics taped on the walls and carpets, and more people in the area! This will clog up the hallway or room and often involves destruction or construction of walls. Inflammation is similar to this while the immune cells are repairing damaged artery lining, kill infected or malignant cells. Inflammation serves to prevent tumor cells to grow, infected cells to take over our body, repair damaged tissue.
Inflammation becomes a problem when there is too much inflammation or the process goes out of control. When the inflammation process in the artery increases too much it will start to clog up and cause elevated blood pressure and a blood clot to form which leads to cardiovascular disease. When inflammation process goes out of control and the immune cells start to attack good cells; this we call auto-immune diseases and can result in degeneration of the brain called neurodegeneration.
Excessive Stress Responses
Stress responses involve the sympathetic nervous system activity to increase fight or flight response. When this stressful state stays long term, this will fatigue and exhaust your body. This stressful state involves increased blood pressure, arteries to constrict, increased blood sugar, decrease digestive and many more! (https://www.diffen.com/difference/Parasympathetic_nervous_system_vs_Sympathetic_nervous_system) This can easily explain how increased stress response can contribute to cardiovascular diseases with increased blood pressure. During an emergency stressful state, the blood is mainly flowing toward muscles for survival. Increased adrenaline and noradrenaline, increases the opportunity for the tumor cells to grow since all the immune cells activity are slowed down to emphasize the survival state.
To summarize this article, the authors were pointing out that the vagus nerve activity is vital in finding out the precursors for most common diseases that cause death worldwide. To analyze the vagus nerve, Heart Rate Variability is highly recommended due to good data from other research articles.