There is a common superstition that ringing in your ear means someone is talking about you.
Unfortunately for many people, the ringing is due to a condition called tinnitus (TIN-ih-tus), from the Latin tinnire “to ring or tinkle”. It is the experience of noise or ringing in the ear and it affects about 1in 5 people. Tinnitus may be transient but for many it is a chronic, very bothersome condition.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was first published in 1943. He based his research on observations of rhesus monkeys at the University of Wisconsin. He established that the most basic physiological needs are the solid platform from which one can reach higher goals. Without satisfying basic needs of food, drink, sex, air and sleep, we are unable to move towards self actualization. This does not change as we age.
As a psychiatrist, I have noted that while we take care of eating and drinking pretty well, sex is often given up, relegated to the young. Relationships are in mayhem because of it. One partner may need it to feel safe and secure, while the other feels like if it never happens for the rest of life, that would be just fine.
I would like to make a case for the fact that giving up on a sex life- in whatever form you see it- is not a wise option, especially as we age. I’m focusing on the medicine side of Love + Medicine in this post. Putting on my white coat.
“Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you,
Everywhere you go, always take the weather…”
– Crowded House
Have you noticed that as soon as the weather changes, humans try to shield themselves from it?
Initially everyone is out, car windows are wide open. A week or two later, every car that goes by has the windows rolled up. Restaurant outdoor patios, after the initial period of elation, sit empty as we choose ”inside please” to dine in the artificially cooled air. Dining areas inside are often far too cool, hence we bring a sweater. The other day I was sitting on the beach and a neighbor glided by me on the water, standing on her paddle board, her slight body glistening with sweat. She looked up at me and shouted “It’s so hot!” It never crossed her mind to jump in the water. Surely the water is too cold or too hot or too mucky or too something!
A new feature on Love+Medicine!
Here is where I take questions from you, my wonderful readers.
Any subject is fair game. Questions may be sent anonymously.
Ask A Question
Today I was asked an interesting question I’d like to share.
A patient asked me:
“Is there a such thing as broken heart syndrome?”
Broken heart syndrome is, sadly, a real malady. It is also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Takotsubo, a type of octopus trap (!), was first described in Japan in 1990. When someone suffers from an event that causes stress, it can take a toll on the heart. The stressor can be from any type of sudden news or confronting situation such as
- loss or illness of someone close – a relative, friend, pet
- intense fear – public speaking, while engaging in high risk sports
- severe pain
- domestic violence
- receiving bad news – such as a cancer diagnosis
- witnessing an accident
- sudden financial loss
- a surprise
Scientists believe that the event causes an increase in the “stress hormone” called adrenalin. Adrenalin causes the heart to overwork and eventually weaken, particularly the left ventricle. Clinically, it looks just like a heart attack. The patient complains of the typical symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath. A complete work up to rule out a heart attack is needed, STAT! An EKG may show signs of a heart attack but in broken heart syndrome there are actually no blockages in the arteries surrounding the heart! Cardiac enzymes may increase, like in a heart attack, but the increase is small. Heart cells are merely “stunned”, they are not killed like in a heart attack.
The illness occurs almost exclusively in women, generally between the ages of 58-75. The good news is that it is reversible and most patients are better in one-two months. In rare cases it can be fatal, if the patient develops heart failure as a result of the weakness of the heart.
As humans we are very adaptable, but some situations are devastating to such a degree that, as we see, the heart can indeed be broken. No one should be alone while experiencing extreme physical and emotional stress. Even if the incident appears trivial and doesn’t warrant this degree of sadness, this is no time for judgement. There is no timeline for overcoming loss- so silly how we learned in medical school, one month of grieving for every year together- everyone is different. Be there, for as long as it takes.