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This Might Be How Stress and Heart Attacks Are Linked

New studies on the link between long-term stress and heart health show that a specific part of the brain called the amygdala plays a huge part in regulating heart health, according to Medical News Today. The amygdala is a region of the brain that processes emotions which, when overstimulated, can lead to increased inflammation in the heart.

Since the one-day-apart deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, the internet has been abuzz about how a broken (sad) heart can literally kill you. There actually is a name for this: broken heart syndrome. Formally known as stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, it is a real medical condition triggered by acute, major stress or shock — such as the death of a loved one.

Symptoms of broken heart syndrome are very similar to those of a heart attack, including chest pain and shortness of breath. The difference is there's no actual damage to the heart to trigger it. Extreme shock or stress may also trigger a hemorrhagic stroke by causing a dramatic rise or change in blood pressure. There's even evidence showing that spousal illness increases the partner's mortality risk.

After examining the associations between optimism and heart health in more than 5,100 adults for 11 years, researchers report that people who display a more optimistic can-do attitude in life experience significantly better cardiovascular health over the long term. This knowledge can be extremely useful for anyone, as you never know when stress or sorrow might strike without warning.

Another way to think about happiness is to define it as “whatever gets you excited.” If you need help getting started, my 13 Tips for Living Happy, Wild and Free can be very useful.