Family member performed CPR

A couple of years back, I took care of a patient who had a rather unique problem of the heart. When her lovely pet dog was caught in a raccoon metal strap, she ran to assist the dog and due to the panic the dog was in, it ended up biting her. While she managed to finally free her dog, she started feeling dizzy when she went back to the house and finally collapsed.

She was lucky that a family member performed CPR immediately and after a few minutes, paramedics were delivering a life- saving shock in efforts of preventing a cardiac arrest. After our diagnosis, we were shocked to find out that the heart’s two thirds bottom part had dilated and could no longer pump blood anymore despite here coronary arteries being normal. We found that the heart disease was stress related, a disease known as cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or simply broken heart syndrome. With continued reduction of stress in the weeks that followed, her heart recovered completely.

According to this illustration, it is clear that there is an intimate connection between the heart and mind. In fact, we have discovered that stress alone can make the heart to fail and even suffer from cardiac arrest. This concept has contributed greatly in enhancing our understanding of heart disease and stress.

Connection between the brain and heart

A study carried out recently showed that a dynamic relationship exists between the mind and the heart. The brain is responsible for creating a protein known as brain derived neutrophic factor that assists the nervous system, including the brain to grow, helps in communication of the nerves and also makes the nerves able to adapt and change. In other words, it does a great job in various parts of the nervous system which are needed for learning, memory and repair. An increase in the level of this protein makes BDNF a natural antidepressant.

A research team at the John Hopkins University did a study to help them understand how BDNF alerts the heart as well as how it affects its functioning. They discovered that a receptor known as TrkB is used by BDNF for binding the heart and an increase in BDNF helps in the growth and development of the heart nerves and blood vessels. Their research helped a lot in understanding a wide range of heart conditions such as the fact that depression causes heart disease and the fact that there are certain cancer chemotherapies that can lead to heart failure. In addition, it has also been found that there are some endurance athletes who tend to develop premature heart arrest and heart failure. Finally, the release of BDNF explains why people can recover from heart failure and while others suffer from progressive deteriorating disease.