Is there really such a thing as a broken heart?

February 8, 2012, Loyola University Health System

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.

Explore further: Emotional grief could lead to heart attack

Related Stories

Emotional grief could lead to heart attack

February 2, 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.  

Women more likely to have 'broken heart syndrome'

November 16, 2011
A woman's heart breaks more easily than a man's.

MRIs could become powerful tools for monitoring cholesteral therapy

October 14, 2011
MRI scanning could become a powerful new tool for assessing how well cholesterol drugs are working, according to Loyola University Health System cardiologist Binh An P. Phan, MD.

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.