By Jason VonGerichten.
There was once a man from Lithuania who owned a haberdashery in Cleveland. On June 2, 1932, during the Great Depression, a man attempted to rob the haberdashery, pointing a gun at the owner. The owner, profoundly afraid of guns, had a heart attack and died on the spot. The robber was never caught.
One third of all deaths are caused by heart disease, and more heart attacks occur on Monday than on any other day. This would lead one to assume that these heart attacks are work-related.
Studies show that when your stress levels rise, many things can go wrong with your circulatory system, the worst, of course, being death.
Your white blood cell count increases to cope with whatever danger you may be facing. This would be great if you were facing off with an actual pathogen, but when facing off with emotional stress, these extra blood cells can cause blockages in your coronary arteries.
Adrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine) also coats blood vessel walls to help increase blood flow during times of distress. Remember you are going into “fight or flight” mode now. If a bear is attacking you in the woods you need extra blood to your leg muscles to run away from danger, or more blood to your arm muscles to fight danger. Unfortunately, in times of emotional stress, and with unfit bodies, this can cause plaque deposits to break loose, which can then block your coronary arteries, which can then lead to a heart attack.
And let’s not forget stress cardiomyopathy, or “Broken Heart Syndrome,” brought about by acute onsets of grief, fear, anger, or pain. Basically a sudden rush of adrenaline is released into your system and stuns your heart muscles (the exact mechanism that causes this to occur is still up for debate), causing your heart to become distended, often tripling in size. The good news is that if you survive this it is usually completely reversible. Once stress levels drop, the heart muscle returns to normal in a few days or a few weeks. If the shock was too intense, though, and blood supply to the heart and body were interrupted dramatically, the results can be similar to our friend the haberdasher.
Incidentally, that haberdasher had a son named Jerry, who was a junior in high school at the time. Jerry saw his fathers death as the result of fear of guns, and a few years later, Jerry went on to invent a bulletproof man. Jerry Siegel is better known for creating Superman.
Coincidentally, the day after the robbery, a letter was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer regarding the robbery and the need for vigilantes during the dark days of the recession. The letter was signed by A.L. Luther.