Horrorpedia: Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy

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Good mourning fiends. Did you enjoy last night’s special post spotlighting and reviewing the new horror podcast Dead as Hell? No? Well make sure you you check it and the rest of the articles out on this blog after you read this post. Today I thought I’d bring you another installment of Rune Morgan Horror’s Horrorpedia. The two previous entries into this category focused on phobias, the things that make people’s skin crawl. While I could make posts every day on humanity’s fears, I thought it would be a good idea to expand this category a bit. So I offer you the first medicine related post on a little condition called Takotsubo Cariomyopathy

Fear, Not Just The Mind-Killer

We’ve all heard the expression scared to death and the myth that you can be so frightened that you can die. The old radio dramas of yesteryear were filled with poor individuals that became so frightened that they died, their faces frozen in horrifying expressions of terror. Of course, now that we’re grown up, we know this is completely impossible… right?

Well kiddies, it turns out that it is completely possible to be frightened to death. In fact, it is something that has been happening for ages. There are two main ways this can occur but we are just going to focus on one for this post. The Japanese call it Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.

You medically learned readers will know that cardiomyopathy comes from the Greek kardia meaning heart, myo meaning muscle, and patheia meaning suffering of. If you speak Japanese or know enough about Japanese culture then you know that a Takotsubo is a trap fishermen use to catch octopi.

Doctors in the Land of the Rising Sun noted that patients who suffered constant stress, pain, and fear were coming to them with heart attack symptoms. But they were not the elderly or poor of health patients you would expect… they were healthy young people. When they took a peek inside one such heart they found one of its valves horribly distended… resembling a takotsubo. Most patients recover from this affliction. However, some patients do die and, in some cases, the ventricle erupted. It turns out this is the same thing that occurs in wild animals on occasion when they are captured.

How It Happens

The heart and nervous system work in tandem. This is why you don’t have to tell your heart to beat in the same way you tell your arm to raise. Usually, this is a perfect system for anything needing a heart to live… unless you suffer from this ailment.

When catecholamines, stress hormones intended to boost muscle fitness, increase in the body, they force the muscles to work harder. Sudden frights and shocks or even built up emotional strain (such is dread and impending doom) cause these hormones to flood the body and mess with the heart’s natural rhythm. It puts more stress on certain areas of the muscle and poisons it entirely.

So fiends, the next time you hear someone say they were scared to death politely remind them that they were not… but they may have been closer than they know…

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