Health + Wellness

Yes, You Really Can Be ‘Scared To Death’!

scared to death

Here’s something to keep in mind this Halloween: Yes, fear can kill you – even if you are in good health.

According to experts, when individuals feel an overwhelming fear – whether it’s real or perceived — their fight-or-flight response goes into high gear.

Whether you like it or not, your body is prewired to enter this state — also known as stress response — when faced with unknown factors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What happens when we are scared?

While normal symptoms accompanied by the response system may include sweaty palms, dry mouth, knots in your stomach, or even butterflies, a more serious reaction may result in your death.

When your body enters fight-or-flight, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, pupils dilate, muscles tighten, and your blood pressure begins to rise.

You’re ready to act. Unfortunately, as your adrenaline levels rise, you’re left vulnerable to heart damage.

When released, adrenaline triggers calcium channels in the heart to open. “Calcium rushes into the heart cells, which causes the heart muscle to contract strongly,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Live Science. “Basically, in a massive response, the calcium keeps on pouring in, and the heart muscles can’t relax.”

In other words, in the event a person is “scared to death,” a large amount of adrenaline will reach his or her heart, developing an arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation (VF) — a rapid, life-threatening heart rhythm starting in the bottom chambers of the heart, causing your heart not to beat regularly as it should.

“It ultimately leads to a drop in blood pressure, because without blood for the brain, you lose consciousness,” Glatter added.

Take for instance the case of a Charlotte, N.C. man, Larry Whitfield, who was charged with

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