How Stress Can Cause A Heart Attack Or Sudden Death

A doctor explains why stress, whether it is chronic or sudden, is not good for the heart.
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The world has been left in shock at the sudden passing of Taiwanese-Canadian actor and model Godfrey Gao, in the early hours of 27th November.  At the time of his collapse from a heart attack, Godfrey was filming a variety show in Zhejiang, China.

There’s speculation that working 17 hours, compounded by the very physically demanding format of the variety show, caused his sudden death. He was only 35 years old. Moreover, a very recent health check-up raised no red flags.


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Dr Mak Koon Hou, a cardiologist and board member of the Singapore Heart Foundation, sheds some light on the link between stress and heart health.

Q. How is stress related to the heart?

A. Stress is a state induced when we face a significant challenge in our usual routine. Our body is conditioned to react to such challenges, whether they are positive or negative, by a complex neurological and hormonal system.

This is so whether we are confronted by a tiger or in the presence of a very attractive person, said Dr Mak. To enable someone to be alert and to act rapidly, the body raises the heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure.

Food stores such as glucose are released into the blood stream so that the body has the resources to react to the situation, the so-called fight-and-flight response.

Rapid and long-term responses to the source of the stress may have detrimental effects on the body. Chronic stress is usually not good for health.

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