Can You Die From a Broken Heart?

Can You Die From a Broken Heart?
Michelle Gabriel
|3 mins read

Sometimes, life hits you where it hurts and you are so sad, it feels like the world is ending.

Well cheer up, because it could be the end of you! Although rare, it can, and has happened.

Here we’re going to see how exactly you can die from a broken heart.

Official Diagnosis & Causes

Official Diagnosis & Causes

There are a few names for this condition: Broken Heart Syndrome, stress-induced cardiomyopathy, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Tako tsubo are octopus traps that look like the pot-shape of the broken heart.

In general, women are at a higher risk of experiencing broken heart syndrome.

Even more so, post-menopausal women are the largest group who can be affected by takotsubo.

In fact, over 90% of reported cases are in women between the ages of 58 and 75.

Still, any dramatic losses can cause this syndrome. It could be the death of a loved one, divorce, breakup, betrayal, rejection, and any major separation.

All of these things will cause a surge of stress hormones as a result of being broken-hearted.

Research has shown that within the first month after a loved one dies, your risk of dying as well is significantly increased.

Stress is a powerful killer, as it can cause an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, puts more pressure on your heart, and harms your immune system.

One notable mass-diagnosis of takostubo was in 2011 after the Christchurch earthquake, which killed 185 people. Afterwards, over 20 patients were diagnosed with Broken-Heart Syndrome.

Although 20 doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s a high number considering this diagnosis is rare.

Symptoms of Broken-Heart Syndrome

Symptoms of Broken-Heart Syndrome

When you have broken-heart syndrome, part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump as well.

The rest of your heart will either maintain its functionality, or have even more forceful contractions.

Due to similarities, broken-heart syndrome could be misdiagnosed as a heart attack.

Symptoms and test results are similar; however there are no blocked arteries in broken-heart syndrome.

Someone with broken-heart syndrome will experience a sudden pain in their chest and shortness of breath.

It can lead to severe, short-term heart muscle failure, but overall it is treatable.

Those who suffer from this can expect to recover in full just within a few weeks, and once you have it, your risks of experiencing broken-heart syndrome again are even lower.

Treatment & Recovery

Treatment & Recovery

Most cases of broken-heart syndrome have happy endings.

Patients typically will make a full recovery within a few weeks, or at most, two months.

Doctors will treat this with diuretics which improve heart muscle contractions, beta blockers, or other medications that block the damaging effects of stress hormones on the heart.

Can You Die From This?

Can You Die From This?

Only in extremely rare cases can you actually die from this, although it is possible.

In extreme situations, the body can go into cardiogenic shock, which is when the heart is weakened so much that it can’t pump enough blood that the body needs.

This particular reaction can be fatal if it isn’t treated immediately.

Other complications can be a backup of fluid in your lungs, low blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, or heart failure.

Death is rare, but heart failure occurs in about 20% of patients with broken-heart syndrome.

Some have speculated cases of broken-heart syndrome among celebrities such as Debbie Reynolds, who died the day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, and Johnny Cash who died within months of his wife.

So as an answer to the question, yes, you can technically die from a broken heart, but you probably won’t!

In general, women are at a higher risk of experiencing broken heart syndrome.

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