I am still reading the book Zoobiquity and one chapter is about the similarity of heart attacks in people and animals. According to the author, a doctor and head of internal medicine in a teaching hospital, whenever a shocking event like an earthquake or tsunami or even a war close by takes place, people get far more heart attacks than normal. Chest pains, arrhythmias and deaths rise. For instance when the Iraqi forces sent Scud missiles into Tel Aviv and civilians faced the possibility of being blown up at random, more Israelis died from heart attacks than from the missiles. Fear and dread is a terrible weapon. I know because I have lived with it most of my life and working with sick and dying animals can literally weaken and break your heart. During the 9/11 time, heart attacks reached an all time high across America. Doctors say that people watching sports matches often keel over from anxiety.
But are humans the only ones that die of fright? No. Bird trappers see that when they throw a net over forest birds and then move to put them into capture boxes, many have died on the spot, terrified by the sudden capture. The heart and the mind are inexorably linked. People die of emotional stress- even though their hearts and arteries are clean and healthy. The only thing that doctors find in such cases is a lightbulb shaped bulge at the bottom of the heart, now known as Takotsubo- direct physical evidence that severe stress (fear, grief, shock, intense negative emotion) can alter the shape of the heart and the way it pumps blood. It is now called the “broken–heart syndrome”. Not just human, every animal gets it. Watch an elephant that lies down by its dead friend or child and dies a few days later. That is Takotsubo. Stress hormones called catecholamines gush into the blood stream, poisoning muscles, causing clots, and causing the heart to beat wildly and dangerously.