The Demi Lovato Hypothesis

Demi Lovato in concert

In her song “Heart Attack,” Demi Lovato posits that:

Puttin’ my defenses up / Cause I don’t wanna fall in love / If I ever did that / I think I’d have a heart attack.

Is this possible?  Let’s check the literature.


According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a heart attack happens:

If the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get enough oxygen.

This is often the result of plaque buildup in the arteries, which are the tunnels that supply oxygen-filled blood to the heart from the lungs.  A secondary cause can be a sudden spasm – either without symptom or a chest pain that feels constricting, tight, or crushing.  A spasm can be the result of “taking certain drugs such as cocaine, emotional stress or pain; exposure to extreme cold; cigarette smoking.”  Our key indicator being, emotional stress.

Can love cause such emotional stress?


Love at first sight is a hypnosis: I am fascinated by an image: at first shaken, electrified, stunned, “paralysed” as Menon was by Socrates…

– Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments


Love, according to a survey by Jankowiak and Fischer in 1992, is a cross-cultural, universal phenomenon.  According to several sets of scientists spanning back to 1979, love causes emotional responses such as “euphoria, intense focused attention on a preferred individual, obsessive thinking about him or her, emotional dependency on and craving for emotional union with this beloved, and increased energy” (Aron, et al., 2005).

In fact, love has even been classified as a “goal-oriented state,” with the reward being a release of dopamine when the object of affection is encountered.  Studies using fMRI to test areas of the brain involved in love confirm that those areas mediating reward are also activated when the subject feels love.  Notably, such reactions to  have also been tied to drugs, notably cocaine.

In fact, love is physically stressing, using the autonomic nervous system to speed and slow pulse rates, constrict blood vessels, and change breath rate.  While some may call it simply a “neurophysiological construct,” love releases vasopressin and oxytocin, creating the sweaty palms and rapidly beating heart we associate with being around one’s mate.

Therefore, we can conclude that Demi Lovato, if she were to fall in love, could in fact be one of the 715,000 Americans each year who have a heart attack.

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