Your heart could stop at any time

Pax Arcana

As if our national diet of melted cheese and rendered fat smoothies weren’t enough to scare you into a premature heart attack, it turns out that you really can be scared into a premature heart attack, which is scary enough to induce a premature heart attack, which is…

Wait, is this a fractal? I sucked at math. Maybe it’s a denominator. I can’t remember.

Anyway, yesterday the Boston Herald profiled Dr. Martin Samuels, who studies cases in which people were literally scared or shocked to death. He calls this “voodoo death”:

Samuels said extreme situations, including terror, elation and sudden sadness, can trigger the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism, during which the nervous system floods the body with adrenaline, which can overwhelm heart-muscle cells to the point where those cells can’t relax. This can cause an abnormal heart rhythm and heart attack.

“You can die on the spot,” he said. He has documented such cases in a golfer who died after hitting a hole-in-one and a boy who died in a face-off with a bear in New Hampshire five years ago.


Meanwhile, researchers at Yale University have proven that anger can cause heart attacks — and that events that trigger massive stress or other strong emotions (earthquakes, World Cup Soccer matches, The Biggest Loser Finale…) can cause the rate of heart attacks to rise among an affected population:

“The people who had the highest anger-induced electrical instability were 10 times more likely than everyone else to have an arrhythmia in follow-up,” she said.

Lampert said the study suggests that anger can be deadly, at least for people who are already vulnerable to this type of electrical disturbance in the heart.

“It says yes, anger really does impact the heart’s electrical system in very specific ways that can lead to sudden death,” she said.

So what they’re saying is that our nation’s leading medical researchers have finally caught up to Fred Sanford. Congratulations, science! Maybe next month you can figure out whether Archie Bunker’s son-in-law really had meat in his head.

Voodoo intrigues ‘brainiac’ [Boston Herald]
Anger really can kill you, U.S. study shows [Reuters]


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