After a loss, especially in tragic situations like the shooting in Uvalde, sudden cardiac deaths are possible.
Just two days after his wife Irma was murdered in the Uvalde, Texas school massacre, Joe Garcia passed away abruptly on May 26, 2022, from a heart attack. A member of the Garcia family stated to the press at the time, "I truly believe Joe died of a broken heart."
A cardiac scientist, Sian Harding, recently wrote for TIME magazine that research suggests it is possible to die of a broken heart.
"Most of us can cope with even very distressing events without tipping into drastic heart collapse. But what is it that makes the difference between dying of a broken heart and surviving a stressful event?" writes @sian_harding https://t.co/aM5cLvdNGw— TIME (@TIME) December 6, 2022
After a loss, especially in tragic situations like the shooting in Uvalde, sudden cardiac deaths are possible. Sudden cardiac death is typically brought on by ventricular fibrillation, a severe change in heart rhythm (or arrhythmia), either as a result of a heart attack or on its own. The heart becomes unable to pump blood into the body as it twists and writhes erratically. Death, in such circumstances, can happen in around four minutes if there is no access to a defibrillator or emergency CPR.
Adrenaline is the primary cause of this terrible outcome. When we exercise or are under stress, adrenaline causes our hearts to beat more rapidly and vigorously. Adrenaline increases the amount of calcium in the cardiac cells, causing them to beat more forcefully, as part of the fight-or-flight response that has developed to help us escape danger. When we are in danger, our blood pressure increases. However, there is a downside to adrenaline: too much can cause calcium excess and uncontrollable arrhythmia in the heart.
A sudden adrenaline spike might occur as a result of the intense emotional trauma of losing a loved one. Earthquakes and other natural disasters, unusually hard exercise, disputes, or taser stuns can all cause high physical or emotional stress. To analyze why certain people are more susceptible of dying of a broken heart, scientists used a study on rodents to build on an existing condition, known as the Takotsubo syndrome, or broken-heart syndrome.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, commonly known as broken-heart syndrome, is defined by Harvard Health as a transient disorder of the heart that usually affects women who are menopausal. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy weakens the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber, post a distressful situation.
Under moments of extreme duress, the team established, the heart is momentarily shut down to avert a worse outcome. This protective route is active in most of us, albeit in a less dramatic fashion, to shield us from the impacts of acute stress. For instance, during panic attacks, people can report feeling as if they are having a heart attack, but this quickly wears off as they recover.
An earlier U.S. study on the short- and long-term associations between widowhood and mortality revealed that male participants had a nearly doubled risk of passing away within three months of their partner's passing and that this increased risk persisted over a year later. Men had a 90% higher chance of passing away than women in the 50+ age group.
The author stipulated that the possibility of the long-running risk of the physical and psychological strain of childbirth and labor has pushed women to develop evolutionary defenses against adrenaline toxicity. "So yes, you can die of a broken heart, but your risk depends on both your sex and age," the author concludes.
The author ends with an important question, "Perhaps, then, the better question remains: if you can die of a broken heart, why are so many of us spared?"
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | BRO VectorDisclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.