Understanding Heart Disease: Can Stress Cause a Heart Attack in a Healthy Person
People who are under a lot of stress are often told by family and friends that they should be careful or they might have a heart attack. While these people have good intentions and mean well, their advice isn’t medically accurate. We will take a closer look at the connection between stress and heart disease.
Does Stress Cause Heart Attacks?
Intense physical and emotional stress won’t cause a heart attack, but these things can cause something that is very similar to a heart attack. Exposure to chronic physical and emotional stress can result in a condition known as stress cardiomyopathy.
Since anyone can be exposed to chronic stress, cardiomyopathy can happen to someone who has no previous history of heart disease or other health problems.
Learning More About Stress Cardiomyopathy
The heart is made up of muscles. These muscles are responsible for helping to pump blood throughout your body, but they can only work properly if they are strong.
If you are exposed to chronic emotional or physical stress, this can cause the muscles to weaken. Once the muscles are weakened the heart is unable to properly function. This is known as cardiomyopathy.
Stress cardiomyopathy can cause a number of life-threatening problems, including heart failure, heart rhythm problems, and shock if it is not properly treated. Learning the symptoms of stress cardiomyopathy can help you know when you should seek medical help.
Symptoms of stress cardiomyopathy include:
- The sudden occurrence of chest pain
- Sweating profusely
- Vomiting or extreme nausea
- Shortness of breath
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Low blood pressure
Symptoms of stress cardiomyopathy typically occur after experiencing an extremely stressful event or being exposed to chronic physical or emotional stress. Some examples of emotional and physical stress include:
- Intense grief
- Intense anger
- Extreme fear
- Sudden surprises or shocks
- Low blood sugar
The Difference Between Heart Attacks and Stress Cardiomyopathy
The symptoms between a heart attack and stress cardiomyopathy are so similar that it is extremely easy to mistake the two cardiac problems. Even though these two problems have similar symptoms, they are different.
A heart attack occurs when a blood clot has formed in the arteries leading to the heart. The clot decreases or completely stops the flow of blood to the heart. The lack of blood causes the muscles of the heart to become permanently damaged.
Stress cardiomyopathy, on the other hand, is not caused by a blood clot. It is caused by weakened heart muscles. Unlike a heart attack where the damage is permanent, the damage from stress cardiomyopathy can be reversed.
If you suspect you are exhibiting symptoms of stress cardiomyopathy, it is important to schedule a visit with the specialists at Tri-City Cardiology. Our cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating heart disease and various cardiac problems including heart attacks, cardiomyopathy, and cardiac arrest. Call our office today to request an appointment with one of our experienced physicians.