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Life Lessons: Broken Heart Syndrome

Published On: Apr 03 2013 04:51:51 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 03 2013 06:04:43 AM CDT

Life Lessons Broken heart syndrome

We've all heard someone say they lived through something that broke their heart.

It turns out how happy or sad you are can actually have an impact on your heart.

When we get bad news, doctors say we can actually have a physical reaction in our hearts that feels a lot like a heart attack. And conversely -- if we are happy -- our hearts heal better from surgery.

Researchers are examining this fascinating mind body connection.

Charles Strassner is familiar with the issue. He lost his wife Anne, after nearly 47 years of marriage.

"There isn't a day goes by that I, that I don't think of her," says Charles. Charles knew his wife was dying, but her death was still unbearable. He had what doctors call Broken-Heart Syndrome.

Dr. Christine Tompkins, a cardiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., says, "It is absolutely a real thing. They have chest pain reminiscent of a heart attack. They have EKG changes that look like a heart attack."

Dr. Tompkins says Broken-Heart Syndrome is acute heart failure triggered by stress and it can happen to healthy people with healthy hearts.

"They can present with life-threatening arrhythmias and actually sudden death and need to be shocked and resuscitated back to life," she says.

Dr. Tompkins says the symptoms can be deadly but they can also be treated and reversed.

Researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York Kathleen King has uncovered another mystery: happily married people who have heart surgery are more than three times as likely to be alive 15 years later as unmarried people.

King says, "We were really surprised at the result. We really did not expect the difference to be that big. Eighty three percent of the women who were highly satisfied with their marriage were still alive compared to 29 percent of the women who were not satisfied with their marriage."

Broken Heart Syndrome is also called stress cardiomyopathy.

It can be brought on by sudden good news as well. Doctors say it is more common in postmenopausal women.

High blood pressure and migraines also appear to be risk factors for the condition.

Doctors say it is important to get medical attention right away for any heart symptoms experienced during a stressful time.

Mysteries of the Heart