Broken Heart Syndrome Is Real (And It Can Kill You)

“Too much love can kill you,” sings Freddie Mercury. Despite the disbelief of many, it is possible.

What is broken heart syndrome?

Each year, usually around Valentine’s Day, news sources publish stories about “broken heart syndrome” or takotsubo cardiomyopathy. The condition occurs when people experience cardiac issues following an episode of extreme emotional distress.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition that’s often brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. The condition can also be triggered by a serious physical illness or surgery.”

How can I die of a broken heart?

A sample case happened in 2016 when actress Debbie Reynolds passed because of a stroke. However, reports say she allegedly died of a broken heart following the death of Carrie Fisher, her daughter who played the iconic role of Princess Leia in the Star Wars films.

When you experience takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a portion of your heart muscle — usually a large part — stops functioning, leading to acute heart failure and death. General signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome include sudden chest pains and shortness of breath.

How is a heart attack different from broken heart syndrome?

Total or near complete blockage of a heart artery is accountable for heart attacks. Any obstruction results from atherosclerosis—a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries. In broken heart syndrome, the heart arteries do not have blockages. Instead, there may be reduced blood flow in the arteries.

What causes broken heart syndrome?

The definite cause of broken heart syndrome is unknown. A surge of stress hormones might be at fault, which can temporarily damage the hearts of some people. In most cases, intense physical or emotional situations cause broken heart syndrome. Some potential triggers are:

  • The death of a loved one
  • Relationship problems and divorce
  • A frightening medical diagnosis, such as cancer
  • Losing a lot of money
  • Heated arguments
  • Physical, emotional, and mental abuse
  • Facing phobias
  • Job loss and significant life changes
  • Physical stressors, including an asthma attack, a car accident, and major surgery

It is also possible for certain drugs, although rare, to cause broken heart syndrome. These medications include:

  • Venlafaxine – a treatment for depression.
  • Levothyroxine – a drug for malfunctioning thyroid glands.
  • Epinephrine – treats severe allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
  • Duloxetine – treats nerve problems in diabetics and controls depression in some people.

Are there treatments for broken heart syndrome?

At first, the symptoms of broken heart syndrome will receive the same treatment as a heart attack. Once your doctor confirms the diagnosis, he or she may treat broken heart syndrome with medicines such as:

  • Beta blockers to slow down heart rate
  • Diuretics to reduce fluid buildup
  • ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure
  • Anti-anxiety medication to manage stress

Any persistent or long-lasting chest contractions could be a sign of broken heart syndrome — or worse, a heart attack. Take the matter seriously and call 911 if you or someone you know have severe chest pains or sudden breathing difficulties.

Learn more about your heart by reading 5 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy, Relation of Stress and Heart Attack, and Hawthorn Berry for your Heart.