Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Can you die of a broken heart?

Researchers think maybe you can:

In a study published in The Lancet two years ago, stress and other psychological factors were found to add more to the risk of heart disease than diabetes or having a family history of heart attacks. There is also a recognised medical condition - stress cardiomyopathy - in which the heart can be damaged with no signs of plaque or clots in the blood vessels. Brought on by intense stress, it is also known as broken heart syndrome; sufferers can have levels of the stress hormone adrenaline 30 times higher than normal.

Cardiomyopathy may explain the striking rise in deaths from heart attacks that researchers have recorded immediately after major disasters such as the Los Angeles earthquake in 1994.

A plea for a recognition of the central role emotions play in heart disease - what has been called psychocardiology - has just been published in a book by leading US cardiologist Dr Mimi Guarneri.

"We feel with our hearts, we love with our hearts, we can die of a broken heart," she writes. "The most difficult job for a cardiologist is not picking the right medication but instilling in someone a passion for their life."

I was with them right up until the overwrought quote from the cardiologist. People, as she well knows, do not feel or love with their HEARTS. Um, hello?

I do think that stress, lonliness, grief, etc. can very adversely affect a person's health. But adding on a frilly piece about loving with our hearts is bullshit, and it obscures the real message that health is not only soundness of body, but of mind as well.

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