09 feb 2015 thrive 682x408

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Broken Heart Syndrome–Is it real?

When you think of a broken heart, you probably don't think of it causing real health problems. But the emotional pain of heartache can actually lead to a serious illness called Broken Heart Syndrome. 

Broken Heart Syndrome is a real condition that is not just in your mind. Patients can experience chest pain, shock and profound illness when this happens. Similar to a heart attack, the heart muscle is disabled during Broken Heart Syndrome. But unlike a heart attack, there is no blocked artery in the heart. Broken Heart Syndrome feels, and acts, like a heart attack in all other ways. 

Since 2001, my team and I have studied Broken Heart Syndrome and have seen 400 patients who have experienced it. Of the patients we see, 90% of them are women. The cause of Broken Heart Syndrome is different for men and women. Half the time, woman's symptoms are caused by psychological stress such as a loss of a loved one. While men, on the other hand, typically develop symptoms while dealing with another illness such as pneumonia.  

There really is no one situation that causes Broken Heart Syndrome. Different situations pose different stress levels for people. I've treated patients whose symptoms were brought on after losing a home in a tornado, getting lost while driving and others who were dealing with the stress of public speaking. 

Broken Heart Syndrome is a human condition that happens on every continent except Antarctica. While it can be fatal, the good news is most people typically recover in a matter of one to two weeks and they're at low risk of it happening again.

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