Doctor: Your heart is actually capable of breaking

Valentine’s Day is coming up, so be warned: your heart is actually capable of breaking.

Stress-induced cardiomyopathy, or Broken Heart Syndrome, is a “stress hormone response that causes reduced heart function and heart failure”, says IU Health cardiologist Dr. Kyle Frick.

According to Dr. Frick, Broken Heart Syndrome is typically brought on by intense emotional or physical stressors.

“Any intense emotional or physical stressor, so the loss of a loved one, even something like winning the lottery, those things can produce a surge in adrenaline which can cause Broken Heart Syndrome,” Dr. Frick said. “Also things we see in the hospital, like a big surgery, or being sick.”

Typically, about 1 to 2 percent of people who come to the Emergency Room with heart attack symptoms will have Broken Heart Syndrome, says Dr. Frick. However, the stress of the pandemic has brought that number up to 7 to 8 percent.

He says the existence of Broken Heart Syndrome truly shows that our mental and emotional health is often connected to our physical health — so we should be taking good care of both.

“Just trying to overall manage your emotional and physical well-being,” Dr. Frick said. “That means not only diet, exercise, but taking care of your emotional health as well. Doing things that make you happy and keeping you in the right frame of mind.”

Overall, Dr. Frick says Broken Heart Syndrome is rare — but if you have symptoms that are new and worrisome, like chest pain or shortness of breath, you should talk to your doctor.

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