Local heart disease expert says acute emotional stress can cause Broken Heart Syndrome

SPOKANE, Wash.– Adding to the heartbreak in Uvalde, the husband of one of the teachers killed in the shooting died of a heart attack.

50-year-old Joe Garcia was married to Irma Garcia. In her school biography, Irma highlighted what she loved the most, her husband, her four children, and teaching.

Two days after the shooting, Joe’s family said on Twitter that Joe passed away from grief, caused by the loss of his wife.

“Broken Heart Syndrome” is a real condition, when the emotional stress of a situation causes a devastating effect on a person’s physical well-being.

Dr. Amy Doneen, who has studied heart disease for more than 20 years in Spokane, says acute stress from an event like mass shooting can bring an unexpected heart malfunction.

“Basically, it mimics like you are having a heart attack and it causes the inflammation around the heart, the heart doesn’t pump as well, so it can create symptoms like chest pain… shortness of breath,” said Dr. Amy Doneen, medical director at the Heart Attack & Stroke Prevention Center. “If someone has a heart disease…underlying heart disease, if they go through acute stress that only I can’t imagine that would be you could get acute inflammation in the arteries around the heart.”

But what kind of emotional stress can cause heart failure?

“If someone is in an environment perceiving the lack of control… that enough can create inflammation,” Doneen said.

Doneen says if you experience any symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and sweating as soon as minutes or as long as hours after an emotional event, be sure to seek medical help right away.

“I always tell people if you feel differently than you’ve ever had before, consider the reality that it could be a cardiovascular event. It happens to 1 out of 3 people,” Doneen said.

READ: Husband of teacher killed in Texas school shooting dies ‘due to grief,’ family reports