Can Scary Movies Cause Heart Attacks?

can fear cause a heart attack

Your heart is racing, your body is tense and you’re probably squeezing the arm of the person next to you. The villain is coming, but you don’t know when. Then, he strikes, and you jump!  

For horror film enthusiasts, feeling fear is addictive. But can the intense, sudden fear brought by scary movies cause a heart attack? 

When you get scared, you get a rush of adrenaline. Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and you may even experience chest pains. Is it a heart attack? Mostly likely not. However, extreme fear can cause a heart attack in very rare cases.  

This phenomenon is called fear-induced stress cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome. It’s triggered by stressful events or extreme emotions, says interventional cardiologist Dr. Gary Nash 

It is believed that the release of stress hormones, including adrenaline, causes the heart to dilate and weaken. It can feel like you’re having a heart attack, with symptoms like chest pains and shortness of breath. However, no arteries are blocked 

Dr. Nash explains that the condition is most common in postmenopausal women, although he has seen it in a variety of demographics. There are other risk factors including a history of neurological conditions (such as epilepsy), or a history of psychiatric disorders (anxiety or depression). Individuals with high blood pressure may be more at risk than others because heart attacks and strokes are related to blood pressure. 

Broken heart syndrome is treatable, and the condition usually reverses itself within a few weeks. In rare cases, the syndrome can be fatal. 

If you have heart health concerns, make an appointment with one of our experienced cardiologists today.