Caution: Hearts Can Really Break

How many times have you said – or heard someone else say – that their heart is broken? Personally, as a young(er) woman, I had my heart broken many times prior to meeting the man that I would marry. Oh, the drama…but it really hurt – not just mentally, but there was a real, physical ache.

Well, it's true. A broken heart is a real medical condition.  Things that can cause it? The death of a loved one or an extremely upsetting traumatic situation; in other words, acute emotion.

Now it’s all making sense to me. Some years back, hubby and I went to a 60th surprise party. Our friend planned it meticulously for months, making sure every detail, down to the color of the cake frosting, was in place. Scheduled for 7:00 PM sharp at one of those fabulously cool restaurants in New York City, they showed up, ready to enjoy the special evening. Only thing was, the birthday boy wasn’t the only one who was surprised when we all yelled "SURPRISE!"– we all got our own surprise when his wife passed out. That's right – out cold, caught in the arms of her husband, by the luck of his fast reflexes. She never even got to take off her coat and greet her guests. An ambulance whisked her and her family off to the nearest ER, and there we sat, ready for a party but unable to really do much but wonder about what happened.

It was about an hour later (when no one could really eat, but what choice did we have, since the food was brought out and being served?) that we found out she had suffered a major heart attack.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal wrote of "Broken-heart syndrome."  It's still a heart attack, but unlike the "classic" attack triggered by a blocked artery this type is different. The trigger: stress. A surge of adrenaline overwhelms the heart. The left ventricle (which is the heart's main pumping chamber) freezes and is unable to contract and pump blood effectively.

And in Thursday's New York Times, Michael Luo wrote of three workers - all from the same steel mill in New York - who had heart attacks within weeks of one another. All were in relatively good health. Guess what they had in common? The stress of losing their jobs.

Ah, stress. So much to be stressed about, so often. That's why it's so important we figure out healthy and constructive ways to deal with it. Notice I didn't say "eliminate" it?

Have you ever had a broken heart?

And how do you deal with your stress?

You might also want to read:

Sometimes You Have to Do Less to Get More

Eating To Beat Stress and Depression

Five Ways to Sideline Stress


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