What you need to know about “broken heart syndrome”


When we suffer emotionally from painful losses, our hearts know it. “Broken heart syndrome,” recognized by doctors as “stress cardiomyopathy,” produces actual physical sensations that mimic a heart attack: chest pain and difficulty breathing. The symptoms, however, aren’t caused by heart disease; they’re triggered by hormonal surges brought on by extreme distress, which compromise blood flow to the heart.

And, unlike a heart attack, broken heart syndrome doesn’t necessarily leave scars—the heart does not have to suffer permanent damage from the experience. In fact, says Loyola University Health System cardiologist Dr. Binh An P. Phan, “Most people will get better in a few weeks without medical treatment.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that people in emotional distress who have heart symptoms shouldn’t seek immediate medical attention—of course, they should—but it does remind us that our minds and hearts are intimately connected. And that, fortunately, one is very capable of healing the other.

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