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  • Jaejeong & Jaeah Kim

Broken Heart Syndrome: Sadness that Kills

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘broken heart’- you know when some characters in a TV show broke up, when your friend’s goldfish died, or hey you may have felt really sad to a point where you declared you were ‘heart-broken' yourself. Well I have good news and bad news. Good news, turns out you weren’t being dramatic and over-emotional when you said your heart was broken after a breakup. Any emotional trauma or extreme stress, can in fact “break your heart.” Bad news, if your heart actually ever “broke,” you could die.

Broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition caused by emotional trauma or extreme stress. It goes by many names, including Broken heart syndrome, apical ballooning syndrome, stress cardiomyopathy, and takotsubo cardiomyopathy. As suggested by its name, broken heart syndrome is often preceded by a significantly damaging (emotionally/physically) event, such as big arguments, domestic abuse, major medical diagnosis, financial crisis, surgeries, death of a loved one, divorce, and more. These triggering events cause a surge in stress hormones such as adrenaline, which in turn temporarily enlarges a section of the heart. The enlarged section of the heart is unable to pump blood properly, and can thus leads to severe short-term heart muscle failure, pulmonary edema, hypotension, and disruption in heartbeat. Although it is rare, broken heart syndrome has in cases proven to be fatal as well.

Broken heart syndrome is often mistaken for a heart attack, although unlike heart attack, broken heart syndrome does not lead to blocked arteries, and only disrupts function of one section of the heart. Some symptoms of broken heart syndrome to look out for is intense chest pain and shortness of breath. Research has also shown that certain people are in higher risk of the broken heart syndrome than others: women, people over 50, people with a past or current psychiatric or neurological condition, and people that use hormone-surging drugs such as Venlafaxine, Epinephrine, Duloxetine, Levothyroxine, or any illegal stimulants (cocaine/meth).

Although there are no scientifically proven preventative measures against broken heart syndromes, researchers have suggested that recognizing and managing stressors in your life can help prevent it. Just know that you know broken heart syndrome is a real heart condition, if you ever feel intense chest pain or shortness of breath after a emotionally traumatizing event and you happen to fall in one or more of the high-risk groups listed above, please go see a doctor. Remember, a broken heart can kill you.




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