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Can Heartbreak Really Harm your Heart?

Feb 25, 2013 - 6 comments





Heart Health


broken heart syndrome


Broken heart



Had “Romeo and Juliet” been written by a cardiologist, Juliet’s life probably would have ended with a heart attack instead of a bloody dagger. Every year, nearly a million Americans rush to the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack — but about 2 percent of these patients suffer from a different problem entirely: a broken heart. Broken heart syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy, bears strong resemblance to a heart attack. Symptoms include chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath.

Yet whereas a heart attack is the culmination of many years of dietary wear and tear on the arteries, broken heart syndrome is caused by a flood of emotion. An extreme life stressor – the unexpected death of a loved one, a car accident, a traumatic break-up — releases a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones. This revs the heart into overdrive, which can harm the heart cells, causing the body to sends signals to slow the heart down. In rare cases, this defense response goes haywire and causes the heart muscle to weaken suddenly; as a result, a large section of the heart bulges and can no longer pump blood efficiently.

Luckily, broken heart syndrome is much easier to recover from than a heart attack is. Heart attacks kill heart cells, which are starved of oxygen-rich blood when a clot blocks an artery; recovery takes months, and patients usually need to make major improvements in their diet and exercise regime, and many will need to start taking medication. Broken heart syndrome, on the other hand, is less likely to be fatal and does not result in permanent heart damage. Broken heart syndrome often occurs in perfectly healthy patients, who can recover fully in a matter of days.

So while it’s rare, beware: unrequited love can actually break your heart.

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Avatar universal
by peggypeter, Mar 04, 2013

10947 tn?1281404252
by Med Help, Mar 11, 2013
We agree!

480448 tn?1426948538
by nursegirl6572, Mar 11, 2013
I TRULY believe our emotional health is so strongly tied to our physical health.  How many of us know an elderly couple, one passes away, and VERY soon after, the other one follows?  Even if they seemed to be in good health?  That happens all too often.  I think love is very strong and powerful...and I think a "broken heart" can have more of an impact on us that we could ever imagine.

Great article MH!

Avatar universal
by Clora17, Mar 20, 2013
I have had this many times in my life and I always thought that it was because my heart skips beats when too stressed but I now know it's not just stress, who could imagine?

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by oldschool48, Mar 21, 2013
This is so true, because Im going through it now.

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by DawninFlorida, Mar 24, 2013
I know it's true. Happened to me about 20+ years ago. I couldn't eat. Even the smell of food made me sick to my stomach. I lost a lot of weight & I cried a lot. Took me years to fully recover. All this because a man had left the state because his ex-girlfriend wouldn't leave him alone & she'd started harassing me. Yet, he wasn't man enough to stand up to her & make her stop. Wouldn't call the Sheriff because he didn't want her to get in any legal trouble because she had a son. I finally accepted that he wasn't the man for me. I could have died!!

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