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Broken heart syndrome is real – here's how it happens

Sad woman sits on her bed.

/ by UK HealthCare

Think that suffering from heartbreak only results in emotional turmoil? Think again.

Certain instances of emotional stress, and even physical stress, can lead to broken heart syndrome. The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are similar to a heart attack – shortness of breath and chest pain – but those with broken heart syndrome don’t have blocked coronary arteries and typically make a full recovery.

Here’s what you should know about this condition:

What causes broken heart syndrome?

Doctors don’t know exactly why some people experience broken heart syndrome.

In most cases, people suffer from it after experiencing an emotional event, such as the death of a loved one, a breakup of a romantic relationship or marriage, or a job loss. Some happy experiences, such as being surprised or winning the lottery, and even certain physical stressors, including an asthma attack or an exhausting physical feat, can lead to broken heart syndrome, too.

When any of these events occur, a part of your heart might enlarge so much that it doesn't pump as well as the rest of the heart.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can occur immediately or several hours after the stressful event. Because the symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack, it’s recommended to seek medical care. Symptoms include:

  • Angina (sudden, severe chest pain).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Arrhythmia (irregular beating of the heart).
  • Fainting.
  • Low blood pressure.

Can it be prevented?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent an episode of broken heart syndrome, but it’s rare to have more than one experience of it. Even if you're healthy and have no history of heart disease, it is possible to experience this syndrome.

How is it treated?

Once your doctor confirms that you are suffering from broken heart syndrome rather than a heart attack, your doctor may prescribe heart medications, such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers or diuretics. Most patients make a full recovery within a month.

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