Home  >  Love Couch  >  Broken Hearts

Broken Heart Syndrome: The Truth to Know If You Can Die from Heartbreak

When your heart is broken, it’s easy to assume that life is never going to be the same again. This is broken heart syndrome. But how serious can it get?

broken heart syndrome

When your heart is broken, nothing in your life feels right. You can’t eat, sleep, or think straight. Your mood is extremely low, and you have no hope for the future. Is this broken heart syndrome, or is there more to it?

Broken heart syndrome differs from feeling heartbroken. It might sound exactly the same but the two are distinct.

Of course, you might not think that broken heart syndrome is an actual thing. But it really possible to have a medical issue as a result of heartbreak? [Read: The 23 facts about love *good and bad* that will blow your mind]

What is broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is a condition triggered by a stressful and deeply emotional time in someone’s life. The good news is that it’s temporary. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less painful or distressing while it’s happening. 

The condition is also medically known as stress cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy. The term ‘takotsubo’ comes from a Japanese name for an octopus trap; these pots resemble the shape of the distressed left ventricle, which is the heart’s main pumping chamber.

These syndromes can also be brought on by other situations in life, such as being sick for a period of time or having gone through major surgery.

Put simply, stress has a very serious effect on the mind and the body. When you’re experiencing heartbreak of any kind, it’s bound to take its toll on you physically and emotionally. [Read: What is FOMO? How to understand it and overcome the stress it creates in life]

How does broken-heart syndrome affect the body?

Broken heart syndrome is usually characterized by feeling low after having gone through, or while going through, a very stressful time. You might also notice chest pain, and other heart symptoms that occur very suddenly.

Of course, any type of chest pain needs to be checked out stat, and that’s why so many people end up in the hospital as a result of broken heart syndrome.

Despite their pain, they’re relieved to hear that they haven’t actually had a heart attack. 

However, it’s important to know that broken heart syndrome can cause physical symptoms. The condition affects a certain section of the heart, but the rest continues to function normally.

This is a good thing because it means the condition is temporary, reversible, and won’t actually cause you a lot of actual harm, (despite how bad it feels) since the heart muscle is not permanently damaged.[Read: How to mend a broken heart and find happiness in life again]

During the onset of the condition, initial symptoms include the heart’s rhythm being disrupted, so your heartbeat pattern will change.

In addition, the lower part of one particular section of your heart will become larger. This causes your heart to beat stronger *contract more* in certain areas. This all sounds very worrying, but again, for most people this is a reversible and temporary condition. 

Stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy occurs more in women than men, and one possible reason is that the female hormone estrogen protects the heart against the effects of adrenaline and other stress hormones.

Many people ask why your heart hurts when you’re sad, or they ask, ‘can a broken heart really hurt?’ It can hurt, yes. And it’s all down to broken heart syndrome. [Read: 32 weird, true psychological facts about love no one seems to know]

Has anyone ever died from a broken heart?

Everyone wants to know if you can die if you’re diagnosed with broken heart syndrome. Well, studies estimate that around 1% of people will die from broken heart syndrome.

But again, it’s not the actual heartbreak that does the heart damage, but the effects of sudden stress acting upon the heart.

There are documented cases of people dying following a severe heartbreak, be it a breakup or the death of someone extremely close to them.

For that reason, it’s important to place total focus on your health and well-being when you’re going through a tough time, even more than you normally would.

While it’s rare to die of a broken heart, it’s certainly not impossible. You can lay the blame at the door of stress. [Read: How to mend from a broken heart and find happiness in life again]

What does broken heart syndrome feel like and how long does it last?

It’s worth pointing out that not every single person who is heartbroken will experience broken heart syndrome. A lot of the sensations you’re experiencing when you’re upset about something are stress-induced. However, with severe emotional or physical stress, broken heart syndrome can occur. 

So, what does it feel like? Remember that every single person is different, but it tends to feel a little like a panic attack but not quite as extreme. It’s a sense of pain, or heaviness, in the chest and a difficulty in taking deep breaths.

For someone going through a heartbreak, broken heart syndrome often comes, and then goes swiftly. Most people overcome the issue in around two months.

However, for someone under extreme stress – not only from the heartbreak but from associated elements – the stress can build up to the point where it affects your heart function. This could, in theory, lead to cardiac issues or even heart failure. [Read: 66 songs that’ll let you cry and help heal you]

Risk factors & triggers for broken heart syndrome

There are certain people who are more likely to develop broken heart syndrome than others. Those are the people who will be asking if you can die from a broken heart!

You’re more likely to develop broken heart syndrome after a heartbreak if:

1. You’re female – the syndrome occurs more often in in women, as mentioned above

2. You’re over 50 years of age

3. You have a medical history of mental health issues, e.g. anxiety and depression [Read: Signs of anxiety – How to read the signs ASAP and handle them better]

However, remember that doesn’t mean all women over 50 are likely to develop broken heart syndrome! It’s simply a risk factor that slightly raises your chances.

So what about the main triggers? These include:

1. The death of a loved one

2. Recent surgery

3. Serious illness

4. Money issues [Read: How to talk about money with your partner without fighting about it]

These are all stressors in life, and as we’ve mentioned, stress is extremely bad for your health.

Broken heart syndrome symptoms

When someone is brokenhearted, it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re going to develop broken heart syndrome and require treatment.

However, if you’re going through a particularly intense emotional or physical experience, it’s a good idea to know the symptoms of broken heart syndrome so that you can reach out for help if needed.

The symptoms of the condition depend on the severity of the physical or emotional stress that may have triggered it. They are not only mental and emotional but also physical.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common signs associated with stress-induced cardiomyopathy. [Read: How to find your happiness from within yourself]

1. Chest pain that comes on suddenly

Chest pain is known medically as angina. Angina is the most common symptom that people with broken heart syndrome experience, and usually why they reach out for help. 

2. Shortness of breath

Another very common symptom of broken heart syndrome is feeling short of breath. This could be that you can’t catch your breath, or that you can’t take a deep breath.

In fact, chest pain or shortness of breath are two of the most common and immediate symptoms that people feel right after experiencing a stressful event.

Shallow breathing is another common feature. [Read: 13 avoidable habits that will change your life for the worse]

3. Blood pressure on the low side

You may not be aware of your blood pressure being low, but the main symptoms are weakness, dizziness, nausea, and blurred vision.

The reduction in your blood pressure is because of the stress being placed on the heart.

4. An abnormal heartbeat

Known as arrhythmia, your heartbeat pattern will change. It’s possible that you will become aware of it. In some cases, this can often be confused with a panic attack, alongside other symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath.

Because broken heart syndrome affects one particular part of the heart, it causes a stronger contraction *heartbeat* in other parts. Although, unlike a heart attack, your heart muscle cells are not permanently damaged. [Read: Why does love hurt when it goes bad?]

5. Clinical weakening of a section of your heart

You won’t be aware of this, but if you go to the hospital, your doctor will do tests and discover this particular sign. This is one of the most common pointers toward broken heart syndrome.

The left ventricle’s ability to pump is often weakened *often temporarily* as a result of extreme stress. It will show up on scans and tests. [Read: How to take care of yourself and avoid falling apart]

6. Fluid accumulating in the lungs

In some cases *usually quite severe*, someone with broken heart syndrome will have fluid appear in the lungs. This sign is only noticed clinically, i.e. it’s not something you’ll be aware of yourself.

 7. Lack of appetite

This is true for the majority of people. When your heart is broken, your body shuts down and you don’t feel like eating anything or drinking much. The adrenaline running through your system makes eating seem nauseating. [Read: How to heal a broken heart the wicked way]

8. So, you don’t eat

Without an appetite, you don’t eat nearly as much as you’re supposed to. Maybe you can stomach an apple for the day or a piece of toast. The trouble with this is pretty obvious.

We need food to survive. Without it, our body starts shutting down and using less and less energy as a means to save itself. This results in barely mobile people who don’t do anything at all.

9. Or, you eat too much

On the flip side, some people eat for comfort. Downing all of your favorite junk food feels like a way to fill the emotional void your heartbreak has caused.

This, however, is almost as bad as not eating anything. You’ll gain a significant amount of weight, and that’s never healthy. [Read: Self-esteem – 26 steps to raise it and feel like a million bucks]

10. Sleep issues

Nightmares may consume your sleep – especially if you’re already a heavy dreamer. They become vivid, sharp, and even more terrifying with the added stress and emotional trauma of a broken heart.

So, you don’t sleep, and this will obviously affect your day-to-day life. [Read: 10 signs you’re lovesick and 10 ways to get out of it]

11. You don’t find joy in the things you used to love

The one thing you used to love may not bring you joy anymore. So, you stop doing it. This can make you struggle to smile or laugh because you just don’t find happiness in the things you once did.

12. Anxiety shoots through the roof

Your body goes on high alert. It’s as if you’re in a foreign place with unknown people, even if you’re at home with family. This makes you nervous, skittish, and highly emotional.

13. Depression may set in

In many cases, people can go into a deep depression when they’re heartbroken. We all know just how terrible depression can be for your mind and body.

Without proper assistance, this can spiral out of control in the worst way. [Read: How to stop holding onto a relationship that’s over]

14. Stress hormones rise and stay at high levels

And they stay elevated for a long time after. These hormones can cause you to gain weight, lose weight, lose sleep, break out, have trouble with digestion, and so many other physical issues.

15. You isolate yourself

Have you ever heard that the more friends you have, the longer you’ll live? Scientifically, human contact is something we NEED in order to survive.

When your heart is broken, you never feel like being with anybody. Solitude becomes your norm and this is terrible for you. [Read: The three stages to embrace and overcome loneliness]

16. You may feel physical pain

The mind is such a powerful organ that it can cause physical pain to manifest in response to emotional pain. Basically, when you’re heartbroken, your brain mimics that emotional pain in physical form, and you can actually feel pain in your joints and different parts of your body.

17. Hair loss

Due to the stress hormones surging through your body, it’s not uncommon for people to lose some hair when they’re going through a breakup.

It may not be really obvious to others, but you’ll start pulling out more and more hair when washing or brushing it. [Read: I just want to be loved – Unlikely reasons why you’re feeling this way]

18. Difficulty concentrating

Your mind is going to be preoccupied with thoughts of your heartbreak. You’ll be overwhelmed with sadness, and you won’t be able to think straight or do things you normally do.

Work can become difficult. Chores becomes daunting. You may find that even making a pot of coffee becomes a really difficult task when you have a broken heart.

19. Hope becomes a foreign emotion

When it feels like your heart is torn into a million pieces, hope doesn’t seem to exist. You lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel, and this makes you lose your will to keep going.

This can be very dangerous to a lot of people who also suffer from depression and anxiety. [Read: Feeling hopeless – How to stop feeling overwhelmed and find hope again]

When to see a cardiologist

The signs of broken heart syndrome are quite a serious *and worrying* medical situation. Each of these physical effects are common to some very serious conditions, too. Can you die from a broken heart? We now know it’s rare, but yes, you can.

We focus so much on the emotional and mental pain of heartbreak, but when stress accumulates, it manifests in physical ways. Ways which can often put a huge amount of pressure on vital organs.

Heart health is something we all need to be super-aware of. If you are struggling with an emotional and stressful situation currently and you notice any of the symptoms above, it is important to follow up with a cardiologist so they can rule out a heart attack.

It goes without saying that if you’re experiencing any kind of chest pain, you should seek urgent medical attention. This is so doctors can perform tests like an echocardiogram, to check which parts of the heart are getting blood supply through the coronary arteries.

They can also do an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), to see if there are abnormalities or symptoms that suggest a heart attack. [Read: Breakup anxiety – How to deal with it and overcome your biggest fears]

So, can you die from a broken heart?

The truth is that if you let your broken heart take over your life, any prolonged presence of the above conditions can definitely lead you towards an early death.

Fortunately, broken heart syndrome is usually a temporary heart condition without any long-term effects, and people can make a full recovery within days or weeks, or within two months at max.

[Read: How to find the right person for you when you’ve given up hope]

Broken heart syndrome is a real thing. Can you die from a broken heart? While it’s rare, the pain is real in both an emotional and physical way.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life. And while you’re at it, check out MIRL, a cool new social networking app that connects experts and seekers!

Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...