Is there really such a thing as a broken heart?

February 8, 2012

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.  

Recommended for you

Exercise and vitamin D better together for heart health

April 27, 2017

Johns Hopkins researchers report that an analysis of survey responses and health records of more than 10,000 American adults for nearly 20 years suggests a "synergistic" link between exercise and good vitamin D levels in ...

'Diet' products can make you fat, study shows

April 25, 2017

High-fat foods are often the primary target when fighting obesity, but sugar-laden "diet" foods could be contributing to unwanted weight gain as well, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

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.