Tag Archives: stress hormones

How intense grief increases your cardiac risk

28 Sep

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

The most dangerous word in the world

7 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas

According to Mark Waldman and Dr.  Andrew Newberg, this word can damage both the speaker’s and the listener’s brain. In a Psychology Today article published last month, they called it “the most dangerous word in the world.”  

What word is it?   Continue reading

How runaway stress hurts your heart – and your brain

25 Apr

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 our girlfriends can help us get through the toughest times

25 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Here’s the difference between men and women. Some years ago, a couple we knew announced that they were getting a divorce. We were gobsmacked! None of our friends had seen this announcement coming from what appeared (to us) to be one of those “perfect” couples. The day we heard their news, it happened that our friend Paul was scheduled to go on a long day-hike in the mountains with the soon-to-be-single husband, just the two of them. At the end of that day, Paul’s wife waited impatiently for his return to hear the scoop about the split. When he finally arrived home, she asked him:

“Well? Well?  What did he say?”

“What did he say about what?” asked her hubby.

“The DIVORCE! What did he say about the DIVORCE?”

“Oh,” he replied. “It didn’t come up.”

It didn’t come up?  It didn’t come up?  Can you imagine two close women friends hiking together for hours and the most important personal crisis of the decade “doesn’t come up”?   It would never happen. And here’s why:  it turns out that when emotions and feelings are running high, women actually respond with a neurochemical reaction that propels us to seek out our women friends to debrief what is happening to us. Continue reading

Is cold-water swimming safe for my heart?

18 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Consider this timely question, answered last month in Harvard Medical School’s publication Healthbeat by Dr. Massimo Ferrigno. His response may be useful for those of you who don’t mind putting your face in the water (I’m not one of them, alas, due to some traumatic childhood memories of the diving board at Mrs. Frydendahl’s backyard pool).

Q:  “I spend part of every year on the coast of Maine. One of the things I love to do there is swim in the ocean for 20 or 30 minutes. The water is cold (55° F) but I don’t mind. I’m almost 80. I had my mitral valve repaired five years ago, and my heart rate is sometimes irregular. Are my cold-water swims okay for my heart?”  Continue reading