broken-heart

This article was last updated on December 29, 2016

Can you really be so sad, upset, or angry that you have a broken heart? Believe it or not, there are times when your emotions might cause a serious heart problem called broken heart syndrome. This condition is real, and even though it’s temporary, it requires immediate medical attention.

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What Is Broken Heart Syndrome?

When you’re under stress, your body releases hormones into your bloodstream to help you cope. While broken heart syndrome is a fairly new condition, doctors believe that it happens when your heart is overwhelmed by a burst of hormones after an experience that makes you very sad, angry, scared, or is a big surprise – like the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a car accident.

broken heart

What Are the Symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome?

In broken heart syndrome, the heart stops pumping normally, causing it to become weak and making the lower left chamber, the left ventricle, swell.

Symptoms can begin minutes or hours after the stressful experience. The most common symptoms include:

Other symptoms can include fainting, a fast or irregular heartbeat, shock, low blood pressure, and heart failure.

Because the symptoms are so much alike, many people with broken heart syndrome think they’re having a heart attack. If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack or experiencing broken heart syndrome, call 9-1-1 right away.

Who Is at Risk for Broken Heart Syndrome?

People with broken heart syndrome often had no signs of heart problems and were generally healthy before they developed this condition. It is more common in people who are Asian or white. Women older than 55 are more likely to develop it than men.

How Is Broken Heart Syndrome Treated?

The first goal of treatment is to get the heart back to normal function. Your doctor will decide how to make this happen based on your needs. This can include medicines that:

  • Relieve the buildup of fluid that can happen when your heart isn’t working the right way
  • Treat blood pressure or blood clots
  • Manage stress hormones

Most people with broken heart syndrome recover fully and don’t need to take medicines once they are back to normal.

Visit UPMC’s Heart and Vascular Institute online or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (1-855-876-2484) for more information.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute ranks among the best in the United States for complete cardiovascular care. U.S. News & World Report lists UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the top hospitals nationally for cardiology and heart surgery. We treat all manners of heart and vein conditions, from the common to the most complex. We are creating new medical devices and cutting-edge treatments that may not be available at other hospitals. We also offer screenings, free clinics, and education events in the community.