Broken Heart Syndrome

“I want to be with Carrie.” Those were Debbie Reynold’s last words to her son before she passed. Reynolds died just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher. Though Reynolds suffered from other health problems, many believe that she simply died of a broken heart. The pain of losing her daughter was too much for her. We’ve heard it many times before in relation to spouses who die within minutes or days of each other, but is it possible? Is it actually possible to die from a broken heart?

Broken heart syndrome, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a reaction to a sudden surge of stress hormones brought on by an extremely stressful or emotional situation. The surge of hormones causes the heart to appear almost ‘stunned.’ Any extremely stressful event can cause BHS. The loss of a loved one, a divorce, breakup, accident, etc., and while the cause is not known, women are more likely to suffer from BHS than men. Researchers speculate that it has to do with the amount of hormones in women versus men, especially after menopause.

Another term for broken heart syndrome is takotsubo cardiomyopathy. When the heart experiences severe emotional pain or stress, it can actually change its shape and cause the blood flow to slow on one side of the heart. It can feel as though your heart is being squeezed or crushed, but unlike a heart attack, there are no clots which cause the heart to stop.

BHS is often misdiagnosed as a heart attack because the symptoms are so similar. Two common symptoms are chest pain and shortness of breath, which you can experience despite being in good overall health. However, some signs and symptoms can differ and they often occur right after the stressful situation. When I lost my first pet, a black Lab I’d had for twelve and a half years, I can honestly say I’d never felt such pain. I felt as if my heart were actually breaking and I couldn’t breathe. It felt as though someone had knocked the wind out of me and I was stunned.

It is possible to survive broken heart syndrome. Most people who experience broken heart syndrome can make a full recovery. With proper medical attention and provided caught in time, most people who experience broken heart syndrome will recover. You cannot erase the pain experienced with a broken heart, but you can survive.

Have you ever experienced broken heart syndrome? Do you know someone who has? Let us know in the comments!