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Can love really break our hearts?

Credits: geralt - Pixabay
Can love really break our hearts?
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When an intense romance is over, the person who didn’t want it to end often feels intense psychological pain. However, in certain cases, the pain can be manifested physically: this is  known as broken heart syndrome. 

Takotsubo syndrome, or broken heart syndrome

In terms of love, everyone has their own rules, habits, desires and needs. For some people, love has to be passionate and romantic, for others, it’s simply a matter of supporting and loving one another. For the biggest romantics, it is a little more difficult to recover from a breakup, given that they had invested all of their hopes and energy into the relationship.

Some people literally feel tight pains in their chest, as if they had actually broken their hearts. So is this possible? Science can shed some light on the matter.

Yes, it is possible. We know this since the 1990s, when Japanese cardiologists diagnosed a cardiac disease nicknamed takotsubo for the first time. This word refers to a ceramic pot that resembles the shape of a broken heart.

Takotsubo syndrome, or broken heart syndrome, can appear following an emotional separation or an intense emotional shock. The symptoms of this cardiomyopathy can be confused with those of a heart attack. More rarely still, broken heart syndrome can occur following a very positive event (a birth, a marriage, etc.).

Here are the symptoms of heart attacks in women:

  • feelings of exhaustion and sudden and intense fatigue
  • unusual breathlessness during or following physical effort (such as climbing stairs, for example)
  • nausea
  • sensation of heaviness or pressure in the chest

And here are the most common symptoms of heart attacks in men:

  • sensation of heaviness or pressure in the chest
  • pain radiating out the neck or the jaw, the back and/or the left arm (and more rarely, the right arm)
  • variable sweats
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • vertigo and/or fainting

Women: more likely to suffer from broken heart syndrome

Credits: Pixabay

Instead of talking of broken heart syndrome, doctors prefer to use the term “cardiomyopathy”. In the case of cardiomyopathy, the left ventricle of the heart becomes blocked and swollen, which leads to chest pain, a feeling of pressure and difficulties breathing. Although the symptoms resemble those of a heart attack, this is not what is happening. Only an MRI scan and tests confirming raised troponin levels in the blood can provide the correct diagnosis.

According to a study carried out on 1,750 patients, in almost 30% of cases, broken heart syndrome results directly from an emotional shock (a break up, the loss of a loved one, family conflict, etc.). In 9 out of 10 cases, patients affected by cardiomyopathy are women, and in 80% of cases, it happens in women over the age of 50.

Specialists have explained that this cardiac pathology is linked to the release of high quantities of adrenaline. When this hormone is released, following an intense emotional event, the small blood vessels contract, thus accelerating the heart beat, sometimes until they become paralysed.

The mortality rates related to this pathology are up to 3.7%. Those linked to heart attacks are up to 5.3%. It is recommended that patients suffering from such symptoms or from cardiomyopathy are regularly followed up by their doctors.

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