Watching Stressful Film can Disrupt Your Heartbeat

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
May 17, 2014

Nerve-wrecking films make your heart race- literally! People who like watching stressful films put themselves at the risk of changing heart beating patterns, showed a research done by University College of London.

irregular heartbeatWhen you are watching an emotionally charged film, it causes a disturbance in the normal heartbeat and a significant increase in your blood pressure. The team from UCL, King’s College London and Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital showed a clip from the film “Vertical Limit” to 19 patients and simultaneously recorded changes in their blood pressure and breathing speed.

The patients had cardiac catheterisation using local anaesthetic, where a line is inserted near the groin and passed through the blood vessels to the heart, aided by X-ray. The researchers also placed electrodes in the ventricles of the heart to measure changes in the cardiac muscle, while the team simultaneously recorded changes to blood pressure and breathing speed.

During the second part of the film, participants recreated the same breathing pattern that they had exhibited while watching the film. The results showed that blood pressure and heartbeat were not altered by replicating the breathing patterns, so changes in breathing brought on by a shock are not what trigger changes in heartbeat.

This is the first study that has actually monitored biological effects of mental and emotional stress in healthy conscious patients. However, there have been previous studies that showed the impact of movies on our mental and emotional well being.

The researchers said this could have consequences for patients who already had a weakened heart, or for those exposed to extremely stressful situations. Researcher Dr Ben Hanson, from University College London, said: “Our findings help us to better understand the impact mental and emotional stress can have on the human heart.

“This is the first time the effects have been directly measured and although the results varied from person to person, we consistently saw changes in the cardiac muscle. If someone already has a weakened heart, or if they experience a much more extreme stress, the effect could be much more destabilising and dangerous.”

Explaining why they chose to use film clips, study author Professor Peter Taggart added: “Film clips are considered to be among the most powerful stimuli to elicit affective responses in the laboratory setting.”

The study was published in the journal Circulation, Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology.


Image Source: Getty

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