Can You Really Die From A Broken Heart?

If you've ever experienced a broken heart, you know that the pain involved might make you feel as though you could die. As it turns out, that crushing sensation might turn out to be more than a feeling. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there is such a thing as broken heart syndrome, and it even has a name: stress cardiomyopathy. This condition occurs when your heart undergoes "sudden acute stress," which has the potential to quickly weaken your heart.

Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that emotional or physical stress is behind most cases of stress cardiomyopathy. Emotional stressors are what you might expect: grief, fear, and even extreme anger. WebMD explains that even positive events, such as winning the lottery or being surprised, can trigger broken heart syndrome. Physical stressors include a high fever, stroke, seizure, low blood sugar, extreme bleeding, and difficulty breathing (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).

Middle-aged women seem to be more at risk for broken heart syndrome, and while the reasons why are not known, doctors suspect it may be because of lower estrogen levels (via WebMD). In fact, for women over the age of 55, the chances of developing stress cardiomyopathy increase five times. That said, men and children have been known to have the condition, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Broken heart syndrome can cause death in rare cases

Symptoms of broken heart syndrome are similar to that of a heart attack, and they include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and sweating (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). Cardiologist Marc Gillinov, M.D., explains to theĀ Cleveland Clinic that while broken heart syndrome mimics a heart attack, it is different in that it is "probably caused by hormonal factors and an artery that spasms." However, blood clots in arteries cause heart attacks. During stress cardiomyopathy, the body experiences a rapid release of adrenaline, which can stimulate a heart attack that causes the heart muscle to stop contracting. Usually, when the spasm stops, the heart returns to normal without any damage. However, in rare situations, the heart failure does not improve, resulting in death.

People who have experienced broken heart syndrome generally need to stay in the hospital for one to three days until their heart function returns to normal, perĀ Medical News Today. Sometimes, medications like beta-blockers are used to help the heart recover. Anti-anxiety drugs may also be prescribed to help control stress hormones.