Broken Heart Syndrome

Broken Heart Syndrome

Everyone has heard the tragic legends of life long romances in which one person passes away and the partner left behind eventually dies of a “broken heart”. While is may seem that the death may be attributed to natural causes, science is discovering that it may hold more truth than previously believed.

Medical Explanation for Broken Heart Syndrome

At a closer glance, broken heart syndrome is not a bizarre mystery. Simply put, death by broken heart is due to stress. This stress may go hand in hand with the shock and depression felt by an emotionally devastating situation, such as the death of a close family member, child or friend. According to, the rare condition was originally called takotsubo cardiomyopathy and later referred to as stress cardiomyopathy to better describe it’s cause. Other equally descriptive names for stress cardiomyopathy are stress-induced cardiomyopathy and apical ballooning syndrome. As the last name suggests stress hormones rapidly released in the body can cause the muscle condition known as broken heart syndrome causing the heart muscles to “balloon”. This can lead to cardiac arrest (heart attack) or any number of valve defects.

Broken Heart Disease is Rare

While many people feel as if they simply cannot live through the loss of a relationship or death of a loved one, many people actually heal emotionally and physically in time. Death by stress cardiomyopathy is rare. While not many statistics are known about the syndrome, it is more common in women. The exact reason for this is not known, but it may have something to do with the way hormones are released in the female body. This syndrome is also to blame for people “dying of fright” or shock as well as the shock of the loss of a loved one.

In cases where heart damage can be found from having stress induced cardiomyopathy, the majority of them will heal in less than thirty days. The John Hopkins Medical center website claims the damage may reverse itself in as little as a week.

Symptoms and Treatment

The signs of broken heart syndrome mimic those of a heart attack. Patients often report feeling chest pain and pressure and may be unable to breath. Pains may shoot down the arm, usually the right one and pain may be felt in all part of the body due to lack of oxygen. Milder symptoms should not be ignored. Symptoms of heart attack differ in men and women and some women exhibit no symptoms at all. Still others report strange symptoms, such as pain in the fingers or thumbs, pain in the chin area, or just a bad taste and numbness in the mouth.

Those who have experienced a major, unexpected loss who exhibit any of the above symptoms should visit a doctor immediately. With timely and proper treatment, broken heart syndrome can be completely reversed.