A Broken Heart Really Can Kill You

November 1, 2018

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If you've ever had your heart broken by someone you cared about deeply, you may have felt like you were going to die. It turns out, that's a distinct possibility.

Researchers and cardiologists have determined that "broken heart syndrome" is very real. Also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, it can occur in either healthy or unhealthy individuals, and is triggered by an emotional stressor which is often misdiagnosed as a heart attack.

University of Washington cardiologist Dr. Zachary Goldberger says that he sees at least one patient a week who may have this syndrome. While it is most often caused by an outside event or mental stressor, it has a real and physical impact on your heart health.

Preliminary research suggests that it is caused, in part, by a surge of stress hormones. The stress of having your heart broken causes the hormones, like adrenaline, to flood your body and temporarily weaken your heart. This influx also causes part of your heart to temporarily enlarge, reducing the ability of your heart to pump properly. Stress hormones may also contribute to heart problems by causing the heart’s arteries to temporarily constrict.