Broken Heart Syndrome...Can You really Die of a Broken Heart?
Yes, you can actually die of a broken heart, but it is highly unlikely. And you are more apt to develop the real syndrome called, "broken heart syndrome" if you are a post-menopausal woman over the age of 50. When I was researching heart attacks for another hub about my personally having a heart attack in 2005, I discovered that there is another condition that mimics a heart attack but is called, "broken heart syndrome." Other names for it are "stress cardiomyopathy" or the Japanese term of "Takotsubo cardiomyopathy."
This temporary heart condition is usually brought on by some type of sudden stress such as the death of a spouse, a scary medical diagnosis, domestic violence, losing a lot of money, or physical traumas such as a car accident, surgery, losing a limb and the like. It could also be brought on by being forced to speak in public, or even something as simple as being frightened at a haunted house or a surprise party. Symptoms of broken heart syndrome look very similar to symptoms of a heart attack.
Broken Heart Syndrome is Often Not Recognized
Since the discovery of broken heart syndrome was as recent as the early 1990s, many doctors don't recognize the syndrome and treat people for heart attacks when they arrive at a hospital with the type of symptoms such as chest pain, arm pain, shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. What is happening is that the body is reacting to this suddenly induced stress with a rush of adrenaline or stress hormones that temporarily enlarges the left ventricle of the heart. When this happens, the blood can't flow well, and slows down, causing some or all of the above symptoms. With a heart attack, there is a blockage in the arteries which cause the attack. With broken heart syndrome, it is as though your heart is in shock, balloons up and freezes into not being able to work correctly. It can cause an irregular heartbeat or a heartbeat that is too fast or maybe too slow. Occasionally this can be fatal, but for the most part, the symptoms will disappear with treatment within two days to two months. Treatment for these symptoms can include heart medications and baby aspirin. For some unknown reason, women are more susceptible to this syndrome than men, and women who have reached the age of menopause or older are more likely to be affected. But it does happen to a small group of men, and women younger than 50.
I can understand why someone might have a broken heart after the sudden death of a spouse. Especially in my case because I have found the love of my life and was fortunate enough to marry him years after a messy divorce. Living without him would be quite traumatic and heartbreaking for me. I certainly hope I don't die of a broken heart if something happens to my husband. But at least I will be able to identify the condition to my doctors and have them check for that first before having them assume it is a second heart attack.
To read more about broken heart syndrome you can purchase the book below!
Read the story of my actual heart attack experience here...
- I Had a Heart Attack at 45...and I'm a Woman!
Having a heart attack when I was 45 years old was quite a shock for me. This is my story that I hope other women can learn from.
© 2012 Karen Hellier