How intense grief increases your cardiac risk

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Emelyn_Story_Tomba_(Cimitero_Acattolico_Roma)My Dad died young in 1983, at just 62 years of age. His was the first significantly meaningful death I’d ever been exposed to, and my personal introduction to the concept of grief and bereavement in our family. My father died of metastatic cancer, lying in a general med-surg hospital ward bed, misdiagnosed with pneumonia until five days before his death, cared for (and I use those two words charitably) by a physician who was so profoundly ignorant about end-of-life care that he actually said these words to my distraught mother, with a straight face:

“We are reluctant to give him opioids for pain because they are addictive.”

This pronouncement was made on the morning of the same day my father died. But hey! – at least Dad wasn’t an addict when he took his last breath nine hours later.    Continue reading “How intense grief increases your cardiac risk”

Do you think too much? How ruminating hurts your heart

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Before my heart attack, I was a champion ruminator. Give me an ugly little problem to worry about, and I’d thrash it to death before finally flinging it aside in a fit of exhaustion, usually after some sleepless nights, a few extra grey hairs, and incalculable damage to my poor coronary arteries.

The late Yale University professor Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema’s research(1) has revealed some interesting facts about ruminating:

“When people ruminate about problems, they remember more negative things that have happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.”

Research also links the habit of rumination with dangerously high levels of the body’s artery-damaging stress hormones like cortisol. Continue reading “Do you think too much? How ruminating hurts your heart”

Four ingredients in the heart patient’s recipe for stress

by Carolyn Thomas

While what stresses you is different from what stresses your neighbour, the recipe for stress is universal. So are the four ingredients in this recipe, according to McGill University’s Centre for Studies on Human Stress at L’Hôpital Louis H. Lafontaine in Montréal.

This Centre, by the way, is a remarkably helpful resource if you’re one of those people who have become so chronically stressed day to day that you no longer think this state of being is even abnormal anymore.

Your body’s natural response to psychological stressors – the release of stress hormones – can lead to poor health outcomes if it becomes chronic.

It struck me that the Centre’s list of four ingredients that reliably elicit this stress response are also those that make a heart disease diagnosis itself so continually stressful.  They include:   Continue reading “Four ingredients in the heart patient’s recipe for stress”