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$1.63 million grant will fund three-year study of cause of heart disease

John Ruiz, assistant professor of clinical health and experimental psychologyCan closely watching for possible threats around you - whether as a function of your occupation or life situation, or because being vigilant is part of your personality - lead to your being at greater risk for developing a serious health problem such as heart disease?

A team of researchers led by John Ruiz, assistant professor of clinical health and experimental psychology, will conduct the three-year North Texas Heart Study to determine a possible link between social vigilance and risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Ruiz has received a $1.63 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for the study, which will involve researchers from the University of California at San Diego, Penn State University, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the University of Utah.

Ruiz notes that everyone is socially vigilant from time to time.

“We are all watchful of other people when we are walking alone at night, when we see someone we don’t trust, or if we are in unfriendly places such as a hostile work environment,” he said. “However, some people are chronically vigilant because of where they live and work, the type of job they have or their personalities.”

Ruiz and his team suggest that chronic vigilance, or hyper-vigilance, may be an important link between stress and greater heart disease risk.

“Vigilance comes at a physical cost,” Ruiz said. “It is associated with an increase in blood pressure as the body is in a state of readiness to take action. The more one has these reactions, the greater the wear-and-tear on the body and risk for disease.” 

Three hundred men and women in Denton County will be recruited for the North Texas Heart Study beginning in November. 

Ruiz received the Competitive Funding Award for principal investigators from the Office of Research and Economic Development at the division's annual award presentation.

-Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions


Posted on: Thu 08 November 2012

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