Can you really die from a broken heart?

Share This Post

Have you ever felt like your heart was breaking due to stress? I know I have. When I was just 13 years old, I lost my father and it felt like my heart shattered into a million pieces.  I have grown up with this strange felt sense of knowing that my father passed away due to a broken heart through stress. At the time, there wasn’t much research on the topic of broken heart syndrome, but over the years, more and more studies have emerged linking intense emotional or physical stress to this condition. So when I began reading about the research around dying from a broken heart – of course this was going to interest me … I guess I have always been looking for an answer. 

Is Broken Heart Syndrome a real thing?

Broken Heart Syndrome, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or stress cardiomyopathy, is a condition that can cause sudden chest pain and shortness of breath. It is usually triggered by an emotional or physical stressor such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, or an illness.

The most common symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome are chest pain and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include dizziness, sweating, low blood pressure, nausea, and an irregular heartbeat. Symptoms typically start within a few hours after the triggering event and can last for days or weeks.

Broken heart syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a temporary condition that can cause symptoms similar to a heart attack. It occurs when sudden acute stress weakens the heart muscle, leading to chest pain, shortness of breath, and even fainting spells. While anyone can experience broken heart syndrome, it’s most commonly seen in women over the age of 50 who have gone through a recent emotional trauma.

But why does this happen? The exact mechanisms behind broken heart syndrome are still not fully understood by medical professionals. 

What Does the Research show? 

However, some theories suggest that the surge of stress hormones released during times of extreme emotional or physical distress may be responsible for damaging the heart muscle.

Studies suggest that Broken Heart Syndrome is caused by a sudden surge of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause the heart muscle to temporarily enlarge and impair its ability to pump blood. This can lead to an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

Studies have also shown that women are more likely to experience Broken Heart Syndrome than men. This could be due to the fact that women tend to experience more emotional stressors than men. But I know that is subjective – many men would perhaps disagree with my comment. 

Research however does suggest that individuals who have previously had a heart attack or other heart disorder are at a greater risk for experiencing Broken Heart Syndrome than those without any previous heart conditions.

It is important to note that there is no test available for diagnosing this condition and it can only be diagnosed after ruling out other potential causes of symptoms.

All images are from The Hearts Whisper® Card Deck

Heartbreak can cause a range of medical conditions, including:

– Increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that people who are stressed due to a broken heart are more likely to develop high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

– Anxiety and depression. People experiencing heartbreak may be more prone to developing anxiety or depression. Symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed with sadness and fatigue can be particularly difficult to manage.

– Impaired immune system functioning. A broken heart can weaken the immune system, leaving an individual more vulnerable to illness. Stressful situations caused by heartbreak may also lead to changes in appetite and sleep patterns, which further impair the body’s ability to fight off infection and illnesses.

– Weakened mental health. Those who experience a broken heart may have difficulty concentrating or making decisions, as well as feelings of loneliness and hopelessness that can impede their daily activities. In some cases, these feelings can become so severe that professional help is needed for recovery.

Overall, it is important for individuals who have experienced a broken heart to seek support from friends and family members in order to cope with the stress associated with this difficult life event.

Treatment for Broken Heart Syndrome

Typically involves medications to reduce chest pain, improve heart function, and treat any other medical issues that may be causing the syndrome. Medications may include beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, and diuretics.

In some cases, doctors may also recommend lifestyle changes such as reducing stress levels, getting more exercise, and eating a healthy diet. It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions while recovering from this condition.

For severe cases of Broken Heart Syndrome, doctors may recommend surgery to repair the damaged area of the heart. Surgery is typically only done in extreme cases where lifestyle changes have not improved the condition.

It’s not always caused by romantic breakups! 

Despite its name, broken heart syndrome is not always caused by romantic love gone wrong. It can be triggered by any kind of intense emotional event – from losing a loved one to experiencing financial hardship or even getting into a car accident. That’s why it’s important for everyone to understand the potential risks and symptoms associated with this condition.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress or experiencing any unusual chest pain or discomfort, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention right away. And remember – taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. They both go hand in hand with each other. 

For years, I have been passionate about the connection between physical and mental wellbeing. That’s why I founded World Let’s Stop Shouting Day – to advocate for non-violent communication and spread awareness of how shouting can hurt our health as well as our relationships.

Despite being in my 50s now, on occasions earlier experiences still haunt me … the impact of the verbal and physical abuse that came with my childhood simply doesn’t vanish away because you want it to. Of course parents are only human; we all get overwhelmed sometimes … especially when life through no fault of your own becomes challenging. 

It is however encouraging to see that there are more resources available than before which help parents better manage stressors from everyday life. By understanding how our nervous systems respond when feeling overwhelmed or under pressure we can take proactive steps towards finding strategies so everyone involved feels protected and supported during challenging times.

Last year I created The Hearts Whisper Therapy Card Deck as part of a collaborative project. Each card has been beautifully illustrated by Ukrainian therapist Katerina and painted with an exquisite heart. When I was thinking of a name for this deck of cards I couldn’t help but think about the negative impact on our health and relationships when we try to silence those whisperings of the heart. So that’s what prompted me to name the deck the Hearts Whisper – symbolising the importance of listening to those silent whispers in our lives that we may be too busy or scared to acknowledge.  Which can lead directly to feelings of increased stress if ignored. This creative tool can be used for  gaining greater insight into your own “hearts whisperings”. 

It’s my firm belief this deck offers creative access into one’s subconscious in order to become more aware of these whispers! What are your thoughts on broken heart syndrome and what do you think about relying upon the wisdom found within The Heart’s Whisper®. Do you think listening to your heart’s whisper can help? I’d love to know! 

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn more about how you can become a #Polyvagalfam

About the author: Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar

With a passion for improving the emotional wellbeing of young people, adults and parents, she is  the founder and creator of Polyvagal Teen®, she has developed an innovative approach to helping teens recognise and manage stress and anxiety through becoming “Polyvagal Aware”. In addition, Yasmin is also the founder of World Let’s Stop Shouting Day, which aims to promote peaceful communication and reduce conflict and aggression in our daily interactions. Neurosloth™ and The Hearts Whisper®

She also runs a small private practice providing counselling and neurofeedback  to young people and adults in North Yorkshire.

More To Explore

Don`t copy text!


Out March 15th On Amazon

235 page workbook journal £17.99

Join Waitlist

Our Polyvagal World

Join The Conversation: BOOK NOW
Wed. 7th of Feb 2004 7.15PM GMT
Live With Dr Stephen PORGES

Sorry You Missed This Event! Follow Us On Eventbrite To Get Notified Of Future Events!