While dying of a broken heart has long been referenced as a thing of fiction, it turns out that there is such a thing.
Research over the years found that the phenomenon of people suffering from a shattered heart is not only real, but has a scientific name called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, also known as Broken-Heart Syndrome.
At the core of the condition is how the body responds to stress. Broken-Heart Syndrome was coined after researchers noticed that many people with the condition were grieving, most of which had experienced the death of a loved one.
A 2007 study reads:
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy mimics acute coronary syndrome and is accompanied by reversible left ventricular apical ballooning in the absence of angiographically significant coronary artery stenosis. In Japanese, “tako-tsubo” means “fishing pot for trapping octopus,” and the left ventricle of a patient diagnosed with this condition resembles that shape. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, which is transient and typically precipitated by acute emotional stress, is also known as “stress cardiomyopathy” or “broken-heart syndrome.”
When a person experiences severe emotional stress, stress hormones are released within the body. These hormones can actually lead to a disease which can stun the heart. From a medical perspective it looks like a heart attack, but it is in fact the heart failing to function.
But it doesn’t have to be a death in order for a person to suffer from such a syndrome. Others encounter traumatic experiences like a car accidents or getting mugged. These types of events can trigger your sympathetic nervous system, which is also called your "fight or flight" mechanism. Your body then unleashes a flood of chemicals, including adrenaline. This sudden flood can stun your heart muscle, leaving it unable to pump properly. Though Broken-Heart syndrome may feel like a heart attack, it's a very different problem that requires a different type of treatment.
Symptoms - which are very similar to that of a heart attack - include chest pain, shortness of breath, arm pain and sweating.
(Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images)