Cardiac disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, but is there any truth to dying from a broken heart?
There are accounts from ancient history of people dying from a broken heart after suddenly losing their significant other or a child. And we’ve all heard stories about couples that were happily married for decades only to die within days or weeks of one another.
But how real is having a broken heart? And can it impact your health to the point of causing you to die? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you’d think.
Broken Heart Syndrome is a Real (But Rare) Thing
There’s a condition called broken heart syndrome that the American Heart Association acknowledges is a real health issue. It also goes by the clinical term stress-induced cardiomyopathy because it can come about suddenly due to a surge of stress hormones that causes one part of the heart to enlarge and pump inefficiently.
The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are nearly identical to a heart attack, except there’s no artery blockage. The chest pain, change in heart rhythm and other reactions are all the result of a very emotionally stressful event. It’s worth noting that women are more likely to experience broken heart syndrome than men.
In rare cases, broken heart syndrome can cause enough damage that the person dies. However, the condition is considered highly treatable and most people recover in a few weeks.
Broken Heart is Another Term for Clinical Depression
Literally breaking your heart is what’s known as cardiac arrest or a heart attack. It’s one of the top reasons why people die, and the breakdown occurs from a blockage in an artery.
Of course, that isn’t what people are talking about when they say someone died of a broken heart (although a heart attack could be a reaction). They are talking about the emotional reaction to the loss of a significant loved one.
Many historical accounts of a person dying from a broken heart are most likely instances of clinical depression. It’s also often unclear exactly how the person died. It could have been through natural means, an accident or even suicide. But what is noted is that the person exhibited signs of deep depression that impacted their personality and behavior, in particular their will to live.
The Connection Between Lost Love and the Will to Live
There’s a lot to be said about the will to live. When someone has something or someone worth living for it improves longevity. It’s possible that when someone loses a loved one they may lose their will to live as well. If the person is already in ill-health it could have adverse effects that lead to death.
In this way a broken heart is indirectly the cause of death because of its negative impact on will to survive.
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