Heartfelt Fear: Findings link stress and cardiac symptoms

10:50am, February 9, 2005

Terrible sadness, a sudden fright, or other emotional stress can bring on heart attack symptoms in people not actually experiencing a heart attack, according to two new reports.

The researchers examined people who showed up at hospitals with chest pain and an impaired capacity to pump blood but no heart-tissue damage or clogged coronary arteries. Rather, the patients turned out to be experiencing physical effects after stressful events, such as the death of a loved one.

Cardiologist Hunter C. Champion of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore and his colleagues treated 18 women and 1 man with severe symptoms. After initial tests had ruled out a heart attack, bedside talks revealed that all the patients had recently had a stressful experience. These included the death of spouse, a car accident, an armed robbery, a family dispute, a court appearance, and a surprise party.

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