Why hearts break

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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We’ve heard curious incidents of ‘shock’ deaths or people suffering from heart/panic attacks on hearing some traumatic news or witnessing the death of a spouse or family member.

Ever wondered what causes such incidents/ sudden deaths? Well, scientists now have a name for it. It’s called the ‘broken heart syndrome’.

An article in the Wall Street Journal cited the case of a woman who suffered a heart attack when her spouse suffered one. Mrs Lee showed symptoms similar to that of a heart attack, but her X-ray angiogram showed that her arteries were completely clear, the report said. So what really happened?

What really happens

Doctors eventually concluded that she suffered from a broken heart syndrome. She experienced sharp pains in her chest, felt faint and went unconscious.
Doctors said that the broken heart syndrome affected people who went through a traumatic experience like the death of a spouse/ family member or a divorce.
The condition is triggered by acute physical or emotional stress. The adrenaline overwhelms the heart. It freezes most of the left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber) causing less blood to be pumped to the heart.

What causes it

According to Dr Binoy John, a Delhi based cardiologist, “The blood pressure shoots up, which can also cause similar symptoms. This results in strain on the muscles and the person therefore suffers from chest pain.”

This stress-induced phenomenon affects mostly women post menopause. “The so-called attack can be due to a minor block or due to stress. Stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine are released which result in constriction of the arteries. They may not get enough blood supply," explains Mumbai-based cardiologist Dr Ramakant Panda.

What to do

“The person should ideally be taken to the hospital immediately. Cardiopulmanory resusciation (CPR) or as well as drugs like nitroglycerine may be given to help them relax,” he adds.
But the only real way to prevent a "broken heart" is to be positive during trying times!

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