In popular culture, people often talk about experiencing such a strong instance of heartbreak due to loss that they feel like they could die. How many times have you heard people say: “I am afraid she will die of a broken heart if she doesn’t get help soon.”
Many of us have been in situations, where for even a brief moment, death seems preferable to life, if life means continuing on without a beloved spouse, parent, friend, or even pet.
Many people believe talking about dying from a broken heart is merely a simple turn of phrase—after all- everyone knows that a broken heart doesn’t really kill people, right?
But, do not write off such a phenomenon too soon; indeed it is possible to die from a broken heart. Having spent many years practicing anesthesiology in a famous cardiac hospital within a high-acuity setting, I have learned all about the strength of the mind-body connection. People can indeed die from a broken heart and this phenomenon is called Broken Heart Syndrome or Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.
The American Heart Association says this about the phenomenon: “Broken heart syndrome, can strike even if you’re healthy…Women are more likely than men to experience the sudden, intense — the reaction to a surge of stress hormones — that can be caused by an emotionally stressful event.
It could be the death of a loved one or even a divorce, breakup or physical separation, betrayal or romantic rejection. It could even happen after a good shock (like winning the lottery.) Broken heart syndrome may be misdiagnosed as a because the symptoms and test results are similar. In fact, tests show dramatic changes in rhythm and blood substances that are typical of a heart attack. But unlike a heart attack, there’s no evidence of blocked heart arteries in broken heart syndrome. In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well, while the rest of your heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions. Researchers are just starting to learn the causes, and how to diagnose and treat it.
The bad news: Broken heart syndrome can lead to severe, short-term heart muscle failure.
The good news: Broken heart syndrome is usually treatable. Most people who experience it make a full recovery within weeks, and they’re at low risk for it happening again (although in rare cases in can be fatal).”
I was partial witness to Broken Heart Syndrome in action. A colleague who worked as an ER physician called me on his way home. He felt the patient was having an heart attack, but something about it didn’t seem like a heart attack. I immediately asked about the patient’s mental state or recent stressors. The doctor admitted that the patient had just found out about his wife’s infidelity and that she abandoned the marriage with no warning. He had told my colleague that he was not sure how he could live without his wife. I immediately thought of Broken Heart Syndrome and asked my colleague to call the doctor who took over the patient’s case.
My colleague called the hospital not a second too late because the patient was experiencing deadly arrhythmias by that time and everyone feared this patient was at death’s door. When the doctor’s realized the patient was experiencing Broken Heart Syndrome, the patient was treated and the patient made a full recovery.
I cannot under-estimate the role of stress reduction and meditation in one’s life because the mind-body connection is so strong. If you are currently dealing with stressful events or are dealing with a broken heart, please consider working with me.
I have been through a tremendous personal heartbreak and I have come out the other side, healthier and happier for it. Do not keep it inside, friend, you deserve better than that. I would love to hear your story and to work with you. Please click the contact link so we can start working together.
Namaste and to your continued well-being,
Dr. Rajiv Parti