Could Stress Be Killing You?
> 7/6/2006 2:21:26 PM

To the surprise of many, the recently convicted former Enron founder Kenneth Lay died this week, the victim of an apparent heart attack. Many have reported that according to his family, he was in terrific shape and had no previous concerns with his heart. This lack of a history of cardiac problems has led many to speculate that the stress of the trial, not to mention the stress of being implicated in one of the largest corporate scandals ever, was too much for Lay's heart.

Daniel Engber, better known as Slate's Explainer, took up the question of stress and heart attacks today in his piece, "Did Stress Kill Ken Lay?" In this helpful piece, Engber answers definitely:

Absolutely. The release of stress hormones (like adrenalin) into the bloodstream increases the likelihood of both heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest. Studies of heart attack patients found that 15 percent to 30 percent of those admitted to a medical center had suffered from severe emotional stress. In another series of studies, doctors used data from implanted defibrillators to show that heart arrhythmias became more common across the country in the aftermath of 9/11.

In fact, as he explains, stress can do all kinds of screwy things to your heart, even going so far as to "produce the symptoms of a heart attack without causing any permanent damage to the heart muscle." Obviously, it is impossilbe to eliminate all stress from our lives, and in reality, that probably wouldn't be all that healthy either, but cutting down on stress and reducing the damage it can do to our bodies is within our grasp. Healthy eating and proper exercise are some places to start. Avoiding involvement in massive corporate scandals probably would help as well.

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