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Mary Ann Garcia and Marisa Garcia

Marisa and Mary Ann Garcia
A Body-Mind Connection

Mary Ann Garcia and Marisa Garcia understand the link between stress and heart disease first hand.

Mother and daughter, they were diagnosed in 2012 with takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, takotsubo means “octopus fishing pot” in Japanese, for the shape the damaged left ventricle resembles.

The condition is brought on by extreme and prolonged mental stress. Takotsubo can mimic the symptoms of an acute cardiac event or be accompanied by a heart attack—as was the case for Marisa, 45, and Mary Ann, 73.

Before her heart attack, Mary Ann had been undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and serving as primary caregiver for her 98-year-old father. Marisa had recently moved to the Coachella Valley to be near her parents and started her own business when stress took its toll.

“There truly is a brain-heart connection,” says Puja Mehta, MD, co-director of the Cardio-Oncology Program and director of the Vascular Function Research Laboratory at the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center. “I am amazed at how much a woman can handle in her busy life and not stop to think about herself, even when symptoms of heart disease finally arise.”

The Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center connected Marisa and Mary Ann to doctors near their Palm Desert home and continues to monitor their progress. “Having Cedars-Sinai in my corner is a safety net,” says Mary Ann.

Marisa now watches out for stress triggers. She, her mother, and dog Max take walks together. “This has definitely been a wake-up call,” says Marisa.

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