Features August 2011 Issue

Heart Attack Recovery Can be Hampered by Fear of Death

Study shows heightened fears may trigger a harmful inflammatory response during a heart attack.

A diagnosis of heart disease can instill a sense of fear in anyone. And now a study shows that individuals with a heightened fear of death can experience increased inflammation responses when they have a heart attack. And that heightened level of inflammation can be damaging to the heart. The study, published in the June issue of the European Heart Journal, also found that patients with a strong fear of death also experienced reduced heart rate variability in the weeks after their heart attacks. "This gets back to that mind-body connection," says Leo Pozuelo, MD, Section Head, Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and Associate Director of the Bakken Heart Brain Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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