Can Your Heart Literally Break?

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Heartbreak: the subject of poems, songs, movies, books and plays for centuries across the globe; a universal feeling felt by many if not all people in a lifetime; an actual physical condition?

Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as "The Broken-Heart Syndrome" is a serious physical condition directly related to the stress and emotional anxiety associated with a "heart-break". The remarkable thing about Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, however, is that patients who suffer from the syndrome, "seem to be having a heart attack but cardiologists find no blockages in the coronary arteries [of the patients]" (Simpson 4).

To address the science of a broken heart we must understand what physically happens to the chambers of the heart when one is experiencing heartbreak. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology describes the heart's reaction to its own breaking as so, "a rapidly reversible form of acute heart failure reported to be triggered by stressful events and associated with a distinctive left ventricular (LV) contraction pattern" (Jungbauer 2).

Or more easily understood with the below diagram...

PJ-AT514A_HEART_NS_20100208194949.gif

So, interestingly enough, the high levels of stress hormones (adrenaline, etc.) caused by heart-breaking scenarios (i.e. break-up, death, sickness) essentially restrict the heart's ability to properly pump blood throughout the body; thus causing chest pain and serious heart problems.

broken heart.jpg

The studied referenced in the diagram above was conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and included 19 patients who seemed to be suffering from Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. Each of the patients had heart-attack like symptoms but remarkably healthy arteries. The studied included 1 man and 18 women (in accordance with the stereotyped over-emotional, melodramatic female) and it was reported that, "They all had stress hormone levels (like adrenaline) two to three times as high as the actual heart attack victims and seven to 34 times higher than normal" (Simpson 11).

Ilan S. Wittstein, a conductor of the study, hypothesizes, "that massive amounts of these stress hormones can go right to the heart and produce a stunning of the heart muscle that causes this temporary dysfunction resembling a heart attack" (Simpson 12).

From all of this we can conclude that heartbreak is not only a true emotion, but is also a real pain that is actually affecting your heart. 

And so I leave you with Omarion's Icebox as we now know, the icebox he is referencing is actually his heart suffering from Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. 


3 Comments

If forgot the web citations for the in-text citations I included, so here they are:

Simpson, Cash. "The Science Of The Broken Heart." The Science Of The Broken Heart. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. .

Jungbauer, Becky. "Broken Hearts: Not Just Fodder For Songwriters." Broken Hearts: Not Just Fodder For Songwriters. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. .

I think the name "broken heart syndrome" is a rather narrow minded nickname for the disease. Really, it is any sort of stressor that could cause it, such as work or studying in addition to the emotional causes. In addition to this, physical stressors can cause it as well, and this journal entry notes a case where there was a spike in the syndrome in areas where there were earthquakes in Japan. The Journal also notes that it is a disease we still know very little about, but it is suspected that the reason it occurs mostly in older women has something to do with the lowered estrogen levels post-menapause, and nothing to do with the "stereotyped over-emotional, melodramatic female" that you claim the study was weighted on. Either way, it could probably use a new nickname.

While your comment has some validity and I suppose one could say that the "broken heart syndrome" is a "rather narrow minded nickname", the nickname of Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy is not necessarily the point of the blog. On the contrary, the point is that there is a physical condition linked to the emotional state associated with heart break, and yes, other stress-inducing emotional state, and yes, physical stressors, the one that seemed to have a ring to it, I suppose was the "broken heart syndromeā€¯.

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