Life can be challenging, even overwhelming. Tornados strike. A debilitating illness weighs us down. Unexpectedly we lose someone we hold dear. Life has a way of stressing us to the limit of our ability to cope.
The National Institute of Health recently reported that each year over 60 Million Americans seek treatment for anxiety and depression as a result of the mental strain they experience. Women in particular seem to be particularly burdened as over 2/3 of the visits to doctors and hospitals were made by women.
May is National Women’s Health Month and it’s a good time to examine the powerful role that stress can have on our lives and health. What is clear is that the tension of daily living can do more than unnerve our hearts.
Sometimes hearts get broken. I don’t mean broken just in the usual sense, from a relationship that has gone sour. No hearts can become cracked like a piece of delicate china.
After being battered by emotional or psychological upheavals, our hearts can become broken on the inside. Overwhelming grief or sadness can fracture our hearts.
Know what I'm talking about? Most people do. Most people have had their hearts deeply hurt in one way or another. The pain, the anguish, or heartache can be so shocking that we may feel like giving up on life.
But did you know that a broken heart could literally kill you? It’s true. A broken heart can be lethal. And unfortunately, women may be at the greatest risk.
Medical researchers have recently identified a new illness called The Broken Heart Syndrome. First described in 1991 by Japanese physicians, The Broken Heart Syndrome is a medical condition that afflicts predominately middle-aged woman and leads to symptoms similar to a heart attack.
Women report chest pain, shortness of breath and feelings of severe fatigue. The symptoms are often so frightening that they seek medical help. When they present to the emergency room, they frequently have an abnormal EKG and may even be suffering with severe breathlessness and a buildup of fluid in the lungs-congestive heart failure.
A cardiac catheterization (a special x-ray test to examine the heart arteries) demonstrates that their symptoms are not a heart attack- no cholesterol deposits are present. Yet, their heart muscle is often severely weakened.
Research from Duke University published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2005) has demonstrated that excessive levels of stress hormones, particularly adrenaline like substances are circulating in the blood. Often the adrenaline levels will be 3-4 times the level commonly seen in a routine heart attack. Overwhelming stress is believed to be the culprit of this condition that can markedly reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood.
Fortunately, most patients make a full recovery from the illness, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Interestingly, The Broken Heart Syndrome is changing the way physicians view emotional health.
We used to think that feelings didn’t affect us physically. We thought that the notion of being scared to death was an old wives tale or folklore. Yet, scientific research in the last few years has shown this to be untrue. Our feelings, particularly negative feelings: fear, anger, grief, loneliness, anxiety, and depression to name a few- can have a harmful effect on our physical health. They can actually create illness. A broken heart can indeed kill you!
So how does a person know if they’re at risk of dying from a broken heart and what can they do to prevent it?
First, recognize that your emotion health is important. Don’t discount strong feelings of discontent or inner pain.
Second, seek medical help. Your physician can help decide if your emotional state is severe enough to require the care of a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Third, take the time to get more in touch with your own feelings. Simple things like spending 15 minutes each day for personal reflection has helped many people overcome troubling emotional states.
Finally, recognize that you can improve the way you feel. Research has shown that counseling, meditation, yoga, and other self-help practices can have a positive impact on your heart health.
A Broken Heart Can Kill You, but you don’t have to become a medical statistic.
You can change your life.
Kirk Laman, D.O., F.A.C.C. – The WholeHearted Cardiologist, is a board certified cardiologist, author, and trainer with a passion for helping people improve their heart health. Dr. Laman is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Michigan State University-College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Laman will be in Cincinnati May 24th, teaching a workshop Creating a Heart Centered Life, for people interested in preventing and healing the emotional issues of their heart. For further information or to register contact the New Thought Unity Center, 513- 961-2527, Ext #102. Also look for Dr. Laman’s book, “How to Heal Your Broken Heart,” at: (http://www.HealingYourBrokenHeart.com). Dr. Laman’s upcoming E Book, A Broken Heart Can Kill You will be available at www.ABrokenHeartCanKillYou.com Or check out Dr. Laman’s blog at www.DrKirkLaman.com