Can You Die From a Broken Heart?

August 30, 2022 3:01 pm Published by

broken heart

If you’ve ever had a broken heart after the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one, you may have felt like your heart was physically breaking. But can you die from a broken heart?

You may be surprised to learn that there is a heart health condition related to heartbreak. The so-called broken heart syndrome, which is more formally known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, can indeed be fatal in some cases.

While it isn’t tremendously common, sometimes the surge of stress hormones associated with intense emotions and extreme stress—like those caused by the death of a loved one—can weaken the heart. This effect was recently in the news in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, when the husband of a teacher who died in the shooting passed away from a heart issue days after the tragedy.

How a Broken Heart Affects the Actual Heart

There’s no question that our mental and emotional health have a significant impact on our overall health. In the last few decades, we’ve learned how important it is to take care of both body and mind to stay truly healthy.

But there’s still a lot to learn when it comes to how a traumatic event can impact the heart. Research has shown that intense stress and shock can induce cardiomyopathy, a condition that disables the heart muscle and makes it harder for the heart to pump blood effectively.

Contrary to the name, broken heart syndrome occurs even in those who don’t have a broken heart. It can also be triggered by other shocks to the body, including severe pain, a major injury or illness, a car accident, a major financial loss, intense fear, or even something as seemingly innocuous as public speaking or a surprise party.

This phenomenon, first discovered in the 1990s, is much more common in women than in men. The majority of people who experience broken heart syndrome survive and go on to live healthy lives.

The Symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome

People with broken heart syndrome often have symptoms that may be mistaken for a heart attack. Symptoms can include an irregular heartbeat, sudden chest pain and shortness of breath.

But unlike a heart attack, which occurs due to blockages in the arteries of the heart, this type of cardiomyopathy occurs when severe stress sends the heart into short-term heart muscle failure.

When the body experiences a shock, it can weaken the heart suddenly and seemingly inexplicably, making it much more difficult for the organs of the body to get the blood they need. This is caused by a weakening of the left ventricle.

How Broken Heart Syndrome Is Diagnosed and Treated

If stress-induced cardiomyopathy feels like a heart attack, how is it diagnosed? In most cases, emergency diagnostic testing is performed.

In a heart attack, imaging scans show evidence of the coronary arteries being obstructed and blood test results suggest heart damage. That’s not the case in someone who has broken heart syndrome. Instead, tests reveal a ballooning of the left ventricle.

In most cases, the symptoms associated with broken heart syndrome don’t last for long. Generally, the person recovers within weeks. Treatment depends on individual symptoms and the severity of those symptoms. The person may receive medications, including those to lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, decrease fluid buildup and manage the underlying stress that caused the condition.

Because the symptoms of broken heart syndrome are serious, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing them.

When your heart’s at stake, you need a medical team you can count on. The Magnolia Heart & Vascular Center is here to offer state-of-the-art heart care in Alcorn County.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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