You Really Can Die of Happiness

You’ve heard it before: “I’m so happy I could die!” Here’s the catch: Though it’s seldom life-threatening, too much happiness could kill you, a recent study found.

the blood vessels and the heart. The study finds that in postmenopausal women, the loss of estrogen might reduce the production of substances that protect the heart.

Another study, published in the Texas Heart Institute Journal, noted excessive levels of catecholamines observed in takotsubo patients have also been shown to damage the muscular tissue of the heart.

As for Ghadri and her fellow happy heart researchers, they are attempting to better understand the relationship between the heart and the brain, the European Society of Cardiology said.

To do so, they are using functional MRI to examine what exactly happens in the parts of the brain involved in processing emotions, reactions and behavior, including the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.

Earlier imaging studies have revealed that specific areas of the brain associated with processing emotions are activated when people feel emotions such as happiness, sadness, and fear (though not disgust or anger), the researchers said in the happy heart study. They noted that the amygdala had recently been implicated in processing pleasant emotions like happiness as well as negative emotions.

Dr. Christian Templin, the principal investigator at University Hospital Zurich’s Cardiovascular Center and one of the study authors, suggested that the broken heart and happy heart variations of takotsubo syndrome may ultimately work the same way.

“We believe that TTS is a classic example of an intertwined feedback mechanism, involving the psychological and/or physical stimuli, the brain and the cardiovascular system,” said Templin. “Perhaps both happy and sad life events, while inherently distinct, share final common pathways.”

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