Is there really such a thing as a broken heart?

On Valentine's Day, people who have been unlucky in love are sometimes said to suffering from a "broken heart."

It turns out that a broken heart is an actual medical condition. Broken heart syndrome occurs during highly stressful or emotional times, such as a painful breakup, the death of a spouse, the loss of a job or extreme anger, said Loyola University Health System cardiologist Dr. Binh An P. Phan.

Broken heart syndrome also is called . Symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack, including chest pain and difficulty breathing. The good news is that, over time, the symptoms go away. And unlike , people with broken heart syndrome do not suffer lasting damage to their hearts, Phan said.

"Most people will get better in a few weeks without medical treatment," Phan said.

During an extremely , the heart can be overwhelmed with a surge of adrenalin and other . This can cause a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. It's similar to what happens during a heart attack, when a blood clot in a coronary artery restricts blood supply to . But unlike a heart attack, broken heart syndrome is reversible, Phan said.

But it's difficult to distinguish between broken heart syndrome and a heart attack, Phan said. Thus, if you experience symptoms such as chest pain and difficulty breathing, don't assume you're having -- call 911.

Phan is director of Loyola's new Preventive Cardiology and Lipid Program, which helps prevent heart attacks and other cardiac-related disorders and provides advanced treatment of cholesterol disorders.

Phan has received advanced fellowship training in cardiology and is a board-certified lipidologist. His special interests include lipidology (the study of cholesterol), preventive cardiology and noninvasive atherosclerosis imaging.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Emotional grief could lead to heart attack

Feb 02, 2012

In the past, suffering from a broken heart was simply a way to describe the emotional pain one felt when dealing with a personal misfortune—a breakup or even the death of a loved one.  

'Broken heart syndrome' no longer a myth

Jul 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Dying of fright or of a broken heart has long been dismissed as myth, but it’s a real phenomenon that one Northeastern physical therapy professor and researcher has observed and studied.

Recommended for you

Smoking rates on the rise in New York City

9 hours ago

For the first time in years, more than 1 million New Yorkers are smoking, marking a disturbing rise of tobacco use in the city that pioneered a number of anti-smoking initiatives that were emulated nationally.

Web-based training can reduce campus rape

11 hours ago

Web-based training targeted at college-aged men is an effective tool for reducing the number of sexual assaults on U.S. campuses, according to a researcher in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

User comments