Societal expectations on love, romance, and relationships place Valentine’s Day on the top of the list for pressure, stress, and anxiety. For those of us focusing on our recovery, feelings of loneliness and sadness can sometimes cause such painful feelings that it feelings like our heart is literally breaking. Is it possible for so much emotional distress to cause such a medical condition that “breaks” our heart? The answer may surprise you.

Loyola University Health System’s cardiologist Dr. Binh An P. Phan explained for Science Daily that broken heart syndrome, otherwise known as stress cardiomyopathy, provides symptoms like those of a heart attack, including chest pain and difficulty breathing. However, unlike a heart attack, these symptoms dissipate after a shorter period. What physically happens when someone experiences broken heart syndrome?

Sudden stress releases “fight or flight” hormones that “overwhelm” or “stun” the heart; this can trigger changes in the heart muscle cells and/or coronary blood vessels. When the happens, the heart becomes weak and the left ventricle (the chamber that pumps blood from the heart to your body) bulges and does not pump properly. Luckily, broken heart syndrome is often treatable and reversible, meaning that the heart will not suffer lasting damages such as with a heart attack. However, if you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, please dial 911 for your safety; never assume that you are simply experiencing broken heart syndrome.

Most people who experience broken heart syndrome are aged 50 and older, but some young women and men experience it as well. Emotional stressors such as extreme grief, fear, or anger resulting from the death of a loved one, financial or legal trouble, domestic abuse, confrontational argument, car accident, public speaking, upsetting break up, and more can lead to broken heart syndrome. Additionally, physical stressors such as an anxiety attack, serious illness or injury, and strenuous physical activity can prompt it. Most symptoms from broken heart syndrome can ameliorate between a few weeks to a few months.

To avoid unwanted symptoms of depression, anxiety, and broken heart syndrome near Valentine’s Day, always take precaution and take part in activities that promote your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Reach out to people who support you and rely on them if you need. You are not alone, and there are many people who care about you.






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