November 05, 2018
Romantic comedies love to reference lines about characters feeling as though they could "die of a broken heart" after a breakup or loss of a loved one. While this classic dramatic line sounds just that, dramatic, "broken-heart syndrome" is a real thing. And it can be deadly.
You might remember back in 2016 when Debbie Reynolds died of a stroke one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, had died from a heart attack. It was speculated that Reynolds’ death could have been a result of broken heart syndrome, or what’s also referred to as "stress-induced cardiomyopathy" and "takotsubo cardiomyopathy," according to Live Science.
Broken heart syndrome is a condition in which the heart's main pumping chamber — the left ventricle — temporarily becomes enlarged and weakened, causing it to not pump properly. As its name suggests, the condition can be triggered by emotional stress — like a loved one's death or the loss of a job — according to Mayo Clinic. Physical stress, such as an asthma attack or major surgery, can be another trigger.
Chest pain and shortness of breath are the main symptoms of broken heart syndrome — similar to those of a heart attack. (A diagnosis of this syndrome is better than a heart attack because there’s no blockage of the heart's arteries, and patients usually make a full recovery within days to weeks, according to Mayo Clinic.)
There’s a new study that suggests the broken heart syndrome can turn deadly — and quick — in folks when combined with cardiogenic shock, a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs, Live Science reported:
The researchers analyzed information from a database of more than 2,000 patients with broken-heart syndrome, called the International Takotsubo Registry. Among these patients, about 200 developed cardiogenic shock.
The researchers found a strikingly high rate of death for broken-heart syndrome patients with cardiogenic shock. While in the hospital, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of patients with cardiogenic shock died, compared with just 2 percent of patients without cardiogenic shock.
Even among patients who survived cardiogenic shock, the higher risk of death persisted for years.