Here is what a new study has found.
Washington: Normally, when a moment of fear or a perceived threat passes, our cortisol, adrenaline and other fear-associated hormones drop to back to normal levels. But for those who live under a constant threat, these hormone levels remain elevated.
Many who experience these overwhelming sensations describe feeling 'scared to death.' The popular phrase may sound dramatic, but health experts say there is some truth behind it.
Fear can cause heart to race and body to sweat. A wave of nausea may overwhelm you as your chest tightens and breathing becomes increasingly difficult. Some may faint - while others start to tremble.
"It is true that if you get scared you can actually become scared to death," a cardiologist, Suzanne Steinbaum, told Fox News.
But there's no need to panic, because it's not exactly common.
Older adults or those who have underlying heart conditions - such as high blood pressure, among others - are more likely to die after experiencing a moment of intense fear, as these conditions increase the risk for heart attack.
In other words, those with serious heart conditions are less likely to tolerate the body's response to fear, which includes a brain and whole-body response.
"The whole-body response includes changes in the cardiovascular system, including increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as a rapid release of stress hormones," said another researcher. These hormones include adrenaline and norepinephrine, among others.
Under a moment of intense stress or fear, this plaque can rupture, potentially causing a deadly heart attack or stroke.
But even with a healthy heart, prolonged psychological distress or chronic stress can affect the heart over time - ultimately leading to death in some cases.