Defibrillators help explain mystery of emotionally triggered sudden
21 May 2005
Cardiac arrhythmias brought on by anger are more deadly than arrhythmias
not caused by extreme emotion, according to a new study presented at Heart
Rhythm 2005, the US Heart Rhythm Society's 26th Annual Scientific Sessions
(4–7 May). The new study finds that the electrical characteristics of
anger-triggered arrhythmias are more disorganised and unstable than
arrhythmias unrelated to emotional events — a possible clue explaining why
sudden cardiac arrest increases in people during stressful times.
"Our study suggests that anger is associated with more dangerous
arrhythmias, which could possibly be due to the higher adrenaline levels
associated with anger and stress," says Matthew Stopper, MD, lead author in
the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. "This could
be a contributing factor as to why the rate of sudden death increases during
natural disasters and war."
The Yale investigators had previously shown that anger predisposed people
to having arrhythmias. They asked 24 patients with implantable cardiac
defibrillators (ICDs) to keep a diary of their emotions before they received
a shock for a cardiac arrhythmia. Using data from this earlier work, the
current study compared the electrical characteristics of anger-triggered
arrhythmias against arrhythmias not associated with anger. The new study
finds that all anger-triggered arrhythmias were initiated by one or more
premature ventricular contractions (PVC), while 68% of arrhythmias not
caused by anger were initiated by PVCs.
"This study provides valuable insight into the mystery surrounding these
heart disorders caused by anger," says Stephen C. Hammill, MD, the Heart
Rhythm Society's president. "Learning more about the electrical
characteristics of these emotionally-triggered events could help in the
prevention and treatment of sudden cardiac arrest."
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