Scared to Death

Can you be scared to death? Now is the time to ponder that, as we begin the season of haunted houses, haunted walks, Fright Fest, and other scary locals. Some of these places carry warnings for people with heart conditions or if they are pregnant (sustos?). Six Flags Great America is even keeping visitors who are less than 17 years old out of one of their extra scary areas, because of the gore and violence it contains. My older daughter tells me Statesville is the most frightening haunted “house”, resulting in even her hardened psyche getting nightmares.

But can you be scared to death? The short answer is yes. Not everyone or just anyone, but some folks can be scared to death. Fright fires off our “fight or flight” system, our sympathetic nervous system and its attendant chemical messengers. If you have watched the Syfy show “Alphas” you likely have seen what happens to the heart and blood vessels of Bill, the guy with extra-human strength, when he is gearing up. That’s what happens in us when we are scared enough. The heart beats loudly and pumps faster and more forcefully. Our blood cells rush through our vessels.

Say you have a bit of heart muscle near where the blood exits your heart. A number of young people have that without knowing it, without any signs. As your heart beats faster and harder that muscle doesn’t get a chance to relax. As it knots and gets larger blood can’t get out of your heart. Bam. Down you go with sudden cardiac death. Scared to death.

Maybe your heart is a little sensitive in its electrical system. Many are. The wiring barely holds out on a good day. Imagine the scare firing up your entire body, flooding it with chemicals that makes your heart wiring even more sensitive. It does this to speed delivery of blood throughout your body, but your hypersensitivity is irritated by the more rapid firing of your heart beats. That may be enough that the rhythm becomes erratic. Misfires. No fires. Down you go. A-rhythmic sudden cardiac death. Scared to death.

Imagine if you have a small weak spot in one of the blood vessels in your brain. Your heart is pushing your blood harder, it hits that weak spot 100 times a minute for several minutes. Can that weak spot withstand 1000 hammer blows or will your blood explode outward into the substance of your brain, destroying brain cells in its path. Death by hemorrhagic stroke. Suddenly, without warning, your life is over. Scared to death.

Can you be scared to death? Yes, indeed. Not everyone and not every time, but you can’t predict who or when. Ask yourself as you enter. Will it be me? Will it be now? Can I be scared to death?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: death, fear, haunted, scared

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  • After running away from a scary monster in a haunted house, I slammed into a wall and broke my nose. Coming from someone who left one of those places with a serious injury, I definitely believe I could be scared to death.

  • When George W. Bush was elected and subsequently sworn in. Scariest moment of my life. Still have nightmares.

  • Wow, I was scared just reading your post!

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    Dick Keller

    I am a trained medicolegal death investigator with over 6 years experience working in the field as a coroner. That experience is bolstered by my years as a medical practitioner and medical educator. I want to demystify death and forensics, and maybe impact preventable deaths along the way.

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