Although the notion of being scared to death may sound like a myth, it does happen to people and animals, researchers say.
For the study, the authors examined this question in detail, Digg reported.
According to them, heart attacks go up during times when there are earthquakes, financial catastrophes, and civil unrest. They also go up when soccer games go into overtime and when people see scary movies.
They happen to humans, they happen to animals, and they happen without any actual injury to your body. Bodies are designed so that they can literally be scared to death.
There are a couple of ways that fear and stress can stretch out, rip up, or break a heart. The heart is a set of tubes, surrounded by muscles. The muscles support and squeeze the tubes. Blood, squeezed through the tubes, is pushing out. The muscles squeeze in.
One of the most well-known syndromes throws off the balance between those tubes and muscles.
Doctors in Japan noticed that people who had persistent stress, pain, and fear, came in with symptoms of a heart attack. These were relatively healthy, young people.
When the doctors looked at one of these hearts, they noticed that one of the chambers in it was grossly distended. Some doctors might have looked at the widened chamber and seen an eggplant or a light bulb.
These doctors saw takotsubos — traps that fishermen used to catch octopus. They called what the patients were experiencing Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.
The heart’s muscles are wired to stay on-rhythm via the nervous system. Stress hormones, called catecholamines, are generally meant to boost muscle fitness, making them work faster and harder than they usually do, and respond with alacrity to nervous impulses.
Sudden shocks – either building emotional terrors or simple startle reactions, cause stress hormones to pour out, messing with the heart’s rhythm, putting more stress on certain parts of the arteries or muscles, or poisoning the muscles entirely.
Most cases of Takotsubo syndrome recovered. Some, however, had cases that so disrupted the normal rhythm of their hearts that they died of the disease. Sometimes, the ventricle actually ruptured. This, in addition to the fact that it was brought on by emotional stress, earned it the nickname Broken Heart Syndrome.
But stress and trauma don’t just take out the heart. These catecholamines go tearing through all the muscles of the body. They cause muscles to burn so hard that they break down, especially skeletal muscles — the muscles that are connected to the skeletal system.
As these muscles break apart, their proteins get into the blood, and from there into the kidneys. These proteins eventually overwhelm the kidneys, causing them to shut down and poisoning other areas of the body, leading to death.
The process is, less poetically, called rhabdomyolysis. It happens suddenly, but more often it involves a long chase, with persistent muscle strain and emotional exhaustion.
Takotsubo deaths came as no surprise to one segment of the world of medicine: veterinarians. They had been dealing with deaths due to capture since the profession began. It was called “capture myopathy”.
Captured wild animals had a rate of death of between one and ten percent of animals captured. For high-risk animals, including most birds, the rate could climb as high as fifty percent.
Humans experience the same sudden death as animals startled by loud noises or subjected to violent capture scenarios — just generally under different circumstances.
Extreme shocks can kill people who otherwise seemed healthy. The curse of humanity is that our emotions tend to us to interpret non-capture situations the same way a zebra trapped in an enclosure with a large, intimidating animal might.
Financial collapse, the death of a loved one, being trapped in a situation that triggers a phobia, or repeated abuse at school or work, trigger the same physical response that animals get in what they perceive as life-or-death situations without any hope of escape.
People who feel trapped experience capture myopathy, the same way that animals do. The body pumps out the same cocktail of drugs that, in the short term, gives muscles a burst of energy, but in the long run or when overdone, simply rips them apart.
The stress continues without abatement, and the body just shuts down. A person can be literally scared to death.