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Emotional Stress and Heart Disease

Because of heart disease a 78-year-old man was unable to do most of his chores around the house. His wife of 56 years had taken over most of his former household chores. One day, she mowed the lawn and placed the mower in its usual spot when she was finished. While his wife went to get the weed trimmer to finish the edges, the patient absentmindedly moved the lawn mower from where his wife left it. As his wife slowly ambled backward using the weed trimmer to finish the edges, she fell over the mower and broke her arm. She immediately got up and screamed at her husband, “Hey, let me tell you something. If I have to go to the hospital, you’d better not be here when I come back”

The man’s wife phoned emergency medical services because of the injury to her arm, but by the time an ambulance arrived several minutes later, the husband’s defibrillator had fired. The ambulance took the patient to the hospital, leaving his wife behind to call another ambulance for transport. It was determined that he went into supraventricular tachycardia shortly after his wife began yelling.

Many studies have shown that acute emotional stress can have a wide ranging effect on the heart from heart attack to disturbance of cardiac rhythm. The consequences of this stress can be gravely damaging and sometimes fatal. It is when we internalize our emotions that we run the greatest risk of heart disease.

Terry Pfau, DO, HMD

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