Thursday, February 17, 2005

Stress and the Broken Heart

I enjoy reading articles like the one that follows, and which I got off of Medscape, because it is a wonderful illustration and validation of a contention that I have held for some time: emotions can greatly impact your health, and the better you can manage them, the better your health will be.

This shouldn't surprise Christians who take God's Word at face value. God tells us that a merry heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. Constant negative thoughts, bitterness, railing at God's providences and lack of contentment with our lot in life will show up in our biology as ill health and even be a cause of death. Unfortunately, many Christians have been taken captive by the materialistic and darwinian presuppositions that afflict western medicine and fundamentally deny the integrated nature of the brain/body connection that God gave us in how they treat their bodies or practice medicine. There is a lot of helpful information in eastern forms of medicine that are more wholistic and recognize the soulish aspects of health IF (and this is a big if) a person is able to sort out the religious pantheistic notions from what is actually in existence.

Probably one of the most effective things that I do in my private practice as a kinesionics practitioner is to help clear people of stress. They feel the results immediately, and it isn't unusual for me to have people fall asleep on my table as I am working on them. I had a new family use my services this week and they were all amazed at how fast and effectively they lost their stress using the non-invasive and simple techniques that I use. (I can't really describe what I do here but one form of therapy that is easily successful for all can be found at this website. Just download the free manuals and follow directions.)

I'll explain some of the theory behind this so you can understand something of how it works.

Our bodies produce electricity. This electricity is measurable through things like EEG's and ECG's. The power transmission lines of the body were discovered by the Chinese thousands of years ago, and the things we call accupuncture points act like little amplifiers that boost the power of the electrical transmissions along the power grid. This power grid is tied directly into the nervous system, and it is in a direct current form of electricity, such as you find in batteries with the negative and positive poles at each end.

Now the nervous system is divided into two halves: the sympathetic, and the parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic system is responsible for what we call our fight or flight response and the parasympathetic system is the more chilled-out side responsible for relaxation, digestion, and other building functions. Because of the stresses of modern living, our sympathetic system gets turned on far more than it needs to be, and it stays on resulting in what is experienced as chronic stress. This has the same effect on the body as trying to drive your car by stepping on the gas and brakes at the same time -- the wear and tear is incredible.

When we experience various stresses, whether an emotional stress like a hurtful comment, a trauma, such as in an accident, or some other negative providence, it has the potential of "shorting out" the electrical system for that specific event. Most phobias, for instance, which are specific fears that have been generalized to cover more than is necessary for safety's sake, are the result of these shorts in the electrical system. They have the effect of keeping a person "stuck" in that state of fear or anxiety until such time as the short is cleared out.

The EFT website that I linked to above and on my sidebar is a technique that is effective in clearing out these electrical shorts by stimulating the various meridian lines and it forms one of a type of "energy" therapies that are available. I use EFT with my clients as a sort of stop-gap measure between visits because it helps them to keep their stress levels down if they use it as things arise. My other methods are more effective of clearing out a number of issues at the same time and to a deeper level than EFT, but at least the EFT can help a person cope.

Once a "short circuit" has been cleared from the electrical/nervous system, the intensity level of emotional stress disappears. It is a joyful thing to see people totally amazed at how something that had been bothering them intensely, or even holding them back from doing important things, suddenly melts into thin air and no longer affects them.

Anyhow, here is the article I promised:

Feb. 9, 2004 — Emotional stress can precipitate severe but reversible left ventricular dysfunction caused by an exaggerated sympathetic response, according to the results of a study published in the Feb. 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The potentially lethal consequences of emotional stress are deeply rooted in folk wisdom, as reflected by phrases such as 'scared to death' and 'a broken heart,'" write Ilan S. Wittstein, MD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues. "In the past decade, cardiac contractile abnormalities and heart failure have been reported after acute emotional stress, but the mechanism remains unknown."

Using coronary angiography and serial echocardiography, the authors evaluated 19 patients presenting with left ventricular dysfunction after sudden emotional stress. Five patients underwent endomyocardial biopsy, and plasma catecholamine levels in 13 patients with stress-related myocardial dysfunction were compared with those in seven patients with Killip class III myocardial infarction.

Median age of patients with stress-induced cardiomyopathy was 63 years, and 95% were women. Presenting symptoms included chest pain, pulmonary edema, and cardiogenic shock, and most patients had diffuse T-wave inversion and a prolonged QT interval. Although 17 patients had mildly elevated serum troponin I levels, angiography revealed clinically significant coronary disease in only one of 19 patients.

On admission, all patients had severe left ventricular dysfunction (median ejection fraction, 0.20; interquartile range, 0.15-0.30), which resolved rapidly (ejection fraction at two to four weeks, 0.60; interquartile range, 0.55-0.65; P < .001). Endomyocardial biopsy revealed mononuclear infiltrates and contraction-band necrosis.

At presentation, patients with stress-induced cardiomyopathy had markedly higher plasma catecholamine levels than did those with Killip class III myocardial infarction (median epinephrine level, 1,264 pg/mL [interquartile range, 916-1,374] vs 376 pg/mL [interquartile range, 275-476]; norepinephrine level, 2,284 pg/mL [interquartile range, 1,709-2,910] vs 1,100 pg/mL [interquartile range, 914-1,320]; and dopamine level, 111 pg/mL [interquartile range, 106-146] vs 61 pg/mL [interquartile range, 46-77]; P < .005 for all comparisons).

Study limitations are those inherent in any small, observational case series, as well as inability to prove a causal relationship between sympathetic activation and stress cardiomyopathy.
"Emotional stress can precipitate severe, reversible left ventricular dysfunction in patients without coronary disease," the authors write. "Exaggerated sympathetic stimulation is probably central to the cause of this syndrome."

Because patients with stress cardiomyopathy typically present with clinical features resembling those of acute myocardial infarction, the authors recommend coronary angiography in most cases.

The Bernard A. and Rebecca S. Bernard Foundation partly supported this study, and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation partly supported four of the authors.

N Engl J Med. 2005;352:539-548

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