Feb. 7, 2005
Patients who have endured a sudden stressful experience—like having their hearts broken—can suffer something that looks awfully like a heart attack.
Never doubt a poet again. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, that having your heart broken can be really bad for your health. Lover walk out you? Uh oh. Lose your job? Hope that was just a palpitation. Kid announces he’s become a Scientologist? 911! The result could be what the researchers call stress-induced cardiomyopathy. In other words, “emotional stress can precipitate severe, reversible left ventricular dysfunction in patients without coronary disease. Exaggerated sympathetic stimulation is probably central to the cause of this syndrome.” The story, of course, is irresistible. Think of all the ledes; it came out the week before Valentine’s day; the research was done at Johns Hopkins, and the journal was NEJM. What more could you ask for in terms of respectability? Well, it might be pointed out that the number of authors was 10, the subjects totalled 19. Oh, 95 percent were women. And it was the week before Valentine’s Day. I guess we ought to add they didn’t actually have heart attacks either, just a mimic of one. Fortunately, recovery was quick; no one died. Maybe they all went off and wrote a song. Or a press release.