There are few life events more stressful, in my considered opinion, than surviving a heart attack. Not only is the actual cardiac event a traumatic and overwhelming experience in itself, but what very few cardiologists tell us before they boot us out the hospital door is how debilitating the day-to-day angst about every little subsequent bubble and squeak can actually be. I can recall, for example, feeling virtually paralyzed with fear over unexpected chest pains following my heart attack (symptoms, I later learned from my cardiac nurse, that are often called “stretching pain” – common in recently stented coronary arteries). These symptoms turned out to be relatively benign – NOT the massive second heart attack I feared they signaled at the time.
David Ropeik teaches at Harvard and is the author of Risk! A Practical Guide for Deciding What’s Really Safe and What’s Really Dangerous in the World Around You. His observations about worry and chronic stress – such as living with heart disease – may ring true for you.
He recently asked his Big Think column readers:
“Want something else to worry about? Worry about worrying too much. The evidence is building that chronically elevated stress shrinks your brain.” Continue reading “How runaway stress hurts your heart – and your brain”