Broken hearts aren’t just ‘a romantic notion’

Broken-heart syndrome is a real thing, and it can impact you at any moment you feel too much emotion. Here's why.

Broken hearts aren’t just ‘a romantic notion’

Broken-heart syndrome is a real thing, and it can impact you at any moment you feel too much emotion. Here's why.
  • A new study says that yes, it's possible for you to suffer from a broken heart.

  • Only it's not the kind Taylor Swift and One Direction sing about.

  • Researchers recently found in a study that women suffer what's called "broken-heart syndrome" — a medical issue that feels like and is similar to a heart attack, even when a patient doesn't have any cardiovascular issues — mostly because they also have issues with their nervous system.

  • Specifically, the study found those who suffer from broken-heart syndrome often have an "impaired parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for helping the body calm down," The Wall Street Journal reported. Or, in other words, they feel heavy waves of emotion that can't be calmed.

  • Most of the time, researchers say, this is brought on by emotional stress, whether it be anger, anxiety or physical stresses, The Wall Street Journal reported. For some, there's no specific cause. It can just happen.

  • "It is a romantic notion, but you really can get this from heartache," Dr. Harmony Reynolds, lead author of the study, wrote in the research.

  • Broken-heart syndrome can also be brought on by joy and excitement, The Wall Street Journal reported. This was the case for Vera Companion, who felt "an intense pain in her chest" — despite having "no sign of clogged arteries" — during a high school pep rally.

  • Bad marriages can also create heart health issues, including hypertension and high blood pressure, that can also lead to broken-heart syndrome, Lois Collins of Deseret News National reported. This is based on a study from Michigan State University that found older spouses specifically are at risk for these issues, especially when they suffer from cardiovascular problems.

  • In total, about 6,230 people were hospitalized for broken-heart syndrome in 2012, a study from The American Journal of Cardiology found. Women accounted for more than 90 percent of the cases, and most of these attacks happened for people between the ages of 65 to 84 years old.

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  • So far, research hasn't found a cure to this sort of broken heart. While getting over an ex-partner may seem as simple as listening to some Avril Lavigne and letting the time pass with some Ben & Jerry's, healing from the actual medical condition mentioned above is a much harder task. In fact, a study done in 2010 found that time doesn't heal a broken heart, Newsweek reported.

  • The researchers specifically followed broken-heart patients for four months after their attack and found the heart didn't heal as quickly as they thought. In fact, these patients, mainly women, "continued to feel weak, could not take part in 'strenuous activity' and many could not return to work for an extended period of time after experiencing the syndrome," Newsweek reported.

  • Specifically, researchers found that the heart, which swells up during one of these attacks and loses the ability to provide energy, was still swollen and hadn't returned to its normal energy levels.

  • As researchers look for a cure to the issue, some medical professionals have provided tips to help patients recover from a broken heart. Most treatments look to push more blood flow to the heart to avoid a similar attack, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute explained.

  • Doctors will also sometimes prescribe medicines that are used to treat high blood pressure, blood clots and stress hormones, the NHLBI explained.

  • And some medical professionals will suggest patients make changes to their lifestyle, mainly by finding ways to cope with stress and "upsetting situations," the NHLBI explained. This can include increased physical activity, relaxation therapy or stress management classes.

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  • "Broken heart syndrome can be life threatening in some cases. Because the syndrome involves severe heart muscle weakness, patients can experience shock, heart failure, low blood pressure, and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm abnormalities," the NHLBI reported. "The good news is that this condition improves very quickly, so with proper diagnosis and management, even the most critically ill tend to make a quick and complete recovery."

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.


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