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A broken heart is more than a metaphor for romantic heartache. It’s a real health condition, called stress-induced cardiomyopathy.
A broken heart can sometimes be mistaken for a heart attack. And it isn’t just about a breakup or loss. The American Heart Association says the syndrome can be caused by anything that causes a surge of stress hormones. It could even be winning the lottery. Though the symptoms may be like those of a heart attack, results of a “broken heart” are quite different.
Women are more likely than men to have sudden chest pain, caused by a surge of stress hormones.
There are a few known risk factors for broken heart syndrome, such as:
Broken heart syndrome is most often caused by extreme emotional or physical stress, such as:
Even if you have never had a history of heart problems, you can have chest pain and shortness of breath.
You may also have an irregular heartbeat as well as weakening of the heart. This is dangerous because a suddenly weakened heart cannot pump blood to meet the body’s needs.
Broken heart syndrome can lead to severe, short-term heart muscle failure, according to the American Heart Association. However, it can be treated. Most people recover within weeks and are at low risk of it happening again.
To learn more about broken heart syndrome, visit the American Heart Association. If you fear that you may be affected by the syndrome, talk to your doctor.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with better lifestyle choices. Learn more about what you can do to lower your risk and keep your heart healthy on our coronary artery disease and hypertension pages.
Originally published: February 8, 2017; Revised 2020
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