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Can Scary Movies Give You a Heart Attack?

Can scary movies actually hurt your heart?

With Halloween right around the corner, October is everyone’s favorite month to watch scary movies. Filmmakers have mastered the art of scaring people to create truly frightening scenarios on the silver screen. One of the most notorious techniques is the “jump scare,” which is the moment that the character thinks he or she is safe, only to have something or someone jump out of nowhere.

There are plenty of rumors about jump scares causing people to have heart attacks while watching horror flicks, but can watching scary movies really hurt your heart?

The answer is – it depends.

Fight-or-flight and Your Heart

Your body has a natural protective mechanism, known as the “fight or flight” response, which probably developed in ancient humans to protect them from saber-toothed tigers and other predators. In the fight-or-flight response, your autonomic (involuntary) nervous system diverts all available resources to your hearts, blood vessels, lungs, and other vital organs so that you can either fight off the tigers or run away.

The fight-or-flight response is helpful when being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, but the stress associated with the response can overload your system. This is particularly true if you have any underlying cardiovascular conditions.

During frightening situations, your nervous system tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, a hormone that increases the rate of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism to prepare your muscles for action. In large amounts, adrenaline can be toxic enough to damage internal organs.

Your heart is particularly vulnerable to damage from adrenaline. Too much of the hormone can cause the heart to develop abnormal rhythms. These rhythms can be so abnormal that the heart cannot pump blood properly – this can be fatal.

Doctors refer to this type of heart problem as stress cardiomyopathy. Unlike a typical heart attack, stress cardiomyopathy is not associated with blood clots, patches of dead heart tissue, or diseased arteries. While anyone can suffer stress cardiomyopathy, people with existing heart and vessel conditions may be more susceptible to cardiovascular tissue damage resulting from high adrenaline levels.

Medical imaging can help your doctor diagnose cardiovascular disease that increases your risk of heart problems associated with “jump scares.” Imaging can put your mind at ease this October so that you can enjoy even the scariest moments of Halloween. For more information, or to make an appointment for a heart scan, call Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119 today.