“Broken Heart Syndrome”. Can You Die From A Broken Heart?

Can you die of a broken heart? I know that all too familiar feeling of when your world comes crashing down on you and you feel as if your drowning upon all its weight. It’s as if your very heart is deteriorating right in front of your own eyes and you are absolutely powerless to stop the bombarding emotions from ripping and tearing apart your inner soul.

Upon browsing the internet, I stumbled across an interesting article about Debbie Reynolds. People were questioning whether she had died from a broken heart last December, days after losing her daughter Carrie Fisher. Is it a coincidence? Or is it something else….

Here are parts of the article, courtesy of CNN:

“Broken heart syndrome — which is, in fact, a real thing — is when someone finds out some shocking news, typically terrible news, and there’s a massive release of these stress hormones that are released into the bloodstream, and the heart is then bombarded with these stress hormones,” said Dr. Matthew Lorber, a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  “This could be the news, certainly, of a loved one dying, which is where the ‘broken heart syndrome’ name comes from. This could be the news of getting a divorce. This could be a boss coming in and telling you you’re fired — anything that can cause intense stress.”

Symptoms and patients:

The symptoms are intense chest pain, shortness of breath and extreme changes in blood pressure. When the stress hormones barrage the heart, they actually change its rhythm — speeding and slowing the heart in succession — causing pain and leaving a person gasping for breath.
<img alt=”What are heart failure, heart attack and cardiac arrest?” class=”media__image” src=”//i2.cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/161225165052-carrie-fisher-debbie-reynolds-large-169.jp
The syndrome is most commonly experienced by women — 90% of cases are in women — by people with a history of neurologic problems, such as seizures, and by people with a history of mental health problems.
Broken heart syndrome is often referred to as “stress-induced cardiomyopathy ,” where cardiomyopathy refers to a weakening of the heart muscle.
In rare cases of a weak heart unable to take the rapid changes induced by stress, broken heart syndrome “can lead to fluid actually getting into the lungs. It could lead to dangerous changes in blood pressure. It can even lead to heart attack, which can lead to death,” Lorber said.
Extreme stress can also result in a cascade of other physiological events ending with stroke.
“We know that stress can induce cardiac arhythmias — irregular rhythms in the heart — that can cause clots to be formed and thus produce large strokes,” said Dr. Paul Wright, chairman of neurology at North Shore University Hospital.
Severe emotional shock “can cause constriction of the vessels of the heart, which can mimic a heart attack, which can cause cardiac rhythm abnormalities,” Wright said. A person could experience an ischemic stroke, in which a lack of blood flow deprives an area of the brain of nutrition.
“Extreme emotional stress can also cause rises or changes in blood pressure, which can result in hemorrhagic strokes,” Wright said. That’s when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain tissue.

Heart health linked to mental health

Though broken heart syndrome is not completely understood, the stress-induced theory has earned support from doctors focused on mental health.
“In general, we know that there’s a tie between cardiac health — heart health — and mental health,” Lorber said. He added that people who have untreated depression and those with untreated anxiety disorders are “at a higher risk for having heart disease and heart attacks.”
“The most likely reason for this is, depression and anxiety cause a release of stress hormones that get into the bloodstream and impact the heart,” Lorber said. “The more your heart is exposed to this, the more likely you are to have a heart attack.”
It’s more typical for broken heart syndrome to go away quickly, with no long-term consequences. Those who wander into an ER are treated symptomatically, their doctors simply verifying that they did not, indeed, have a heart attack.
With no lasting damage a month or two later, it’s simply a bad memory for most who suffer broken heart syndrome.
Still, a rare few do die of a broken heart. Though it’s not often, Lorber said, “you do hear about someone not wanting to live without their loved ones.”

I absolutely believe in this theory. From someone who suffers on a day to day basis, I often wonder how long it will take for me.

R.I.P. Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher

And to all the families and victims of the Manchester Arena Attack. My heart breaks for you….



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