Stressful situations may lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream, triggering a heart attack
It’s a phrase we’ve all used without a second thought – but scientists have now revealed it really is possible to be scared to death.
A new study has found the reason why stressful situations trigger heart attacks – and it’s all down to a link between stress hormones and bacteria, reports Mail Online.
Certain hormones are released when people experience sudden emotional shock, stress or over-exertion.
These hormones shift bacteria that normally cling to the arteries, causing plaque deposits to enter the blood stream without warning.
This could cause a blockage resulting in a heart attack, according the study, published in mBio, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
David Davies of Binghamton University, New York, who co-authored the study, said: ‘Heart attack and stroke often occur following an event where elevated levels of catecholamine hormones are released into the blood and tissues, such as during sudden emotional shock or stress, sudden exertion or over-exertion.’
During the study, scientists grew bacteria from diseased arteries taken from patients suffering from atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries.
They found multiple bacterial species living as biofilms – thin sheets of bacteria – in the walls of every plaque-covered artery tested.
Managing bacteria may be important as keeping an eye on cholesterol with patients with atherosclerosis, the study suggests.
Previous research has found that the stress of natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes can also trigger heart problems.
A condition known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome, is where the heart muscle becomes temporarily enlarged and weakened.
It is often triggered by extreme physical or emotional stress – for example, being in a car accident or losing a child or spouse, researchers at the University of Arkansas found.