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Can You Die Of A Broken Heart?

Broken heart syndrome. Photo Manhattan Cardiology

This article will attempt to answer this question in the simplest way possible. I really wish it were a no. And if it were, that would have been pretty simple, wouldn’t it?

Stuart “Bear” Cooper had his eyes on a girl, Kerry, for years. He always thought her to be his soulmate. So, when she agreed to date him, he couldn’t believe his luck. Three years down the line, Kerry and Bear got engaged with loved ones in attendance. In July 2019, seven months later, Kerry passed on. While, Bear, their family and close associates mourned her, no one knew the effect it had on him until a month a later after he died and the cause of death was ruled as a broken heart.

In clinical sciences, what happened to Bear is called takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken heart syndrome) or stress-induced cardiomyopathy. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a condition of the heart where there is a weakening of the left ventricle and a series of triggers in the heart muscle cells and coronary blood vessels. In simpler terms, what happened to Bear is, a part of his heart got enlarged after getting “stunned” and stopped functioning properly while the other parts had to function forcefully to meet up.
First discovered in 1990, the Japanese name, Takotsubo, refers to the stricken heart-shaped pots used by fishermen to trap octopuses. The pot takes a striking resemblance to the way the ventricle bulges where there is a contraction.

Bear is one of the 10% of cases that belong to the male gender, the others are women and a broken heart is more likely to occur in a woman that is in her menopause phase.

The two major symptoms include intense chest pain and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include:

  • Irregular beating of the heart
  • Physical pain
  • Emotional stress
  • Fainting
  • Heart failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pulmonary Edema
  • And your guess is right: a divorce, a breakup, the death of a someone special or even betrayal are some of the factors that trigger a broken heart. On the other side of the coin, extreme excitement can lead to a shock and then, a broken heart.

Although the major and definite cause of a broken heart is unknown and research is still carried out to determine this, researchers have identified stressors that contribute to a broken heart. Some of the stressors you need to be wary of are:

  • Bad News
  • Illness
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Head injury
  • Low blood pressure
  • Domestic violence
  • Asthma attack
  • Arguments
  • Financial disability
  • Public speaking
  • A surprise

Pre-existing medical condition. Photo Cigna

Some drugs are also known to contribute to a broken heart. Some of them include Epinephrine, Duloxetine, Venlafaxine, Levothyroxine, and illegal stimulants such as cocaine.

For a proper diagnosis, consult a doctor. Because of its striking similarities to a heart attack, a doctor looks out for the following:

  • Blockages in the coronary arteries.
  • A rapid but small rise in cardiac biomarkers
  • An echocardiogram to show abnormal movements in the walls of the left ventricle.

Broken Heart And Cancer
Owing to extensive research on its link with cancer, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2019, found that although it could not be ascertained if a broken heart leads to cancer, it recommended that those with a broken heart be screened for cancer. The research found that 1 in 6 people of the over 1,600 patients with broken heart syndrome had cancer.

Can a broken heart recover?
Fortunately, as we say in the lay man’s language, a broken heart can be mended. To help with its recovery, a doctor’s prescription is based on the severity of the case, low blood pressure and Pulmonary Edema.

Also, some of the recommended medications are diuretics, ACE inhibitors, aspirin and beta-blockers. Most important is ensuring that you alleviate stress-inducing situations.

Can A Broken Heart Reoccur?
Yes, it can but the chances are really low. On rare occasions, it can result in death.

The medical information provided in this article is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

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