Written by Sukhman Rehki
If you’re like most people, there has been at least one instance in your life where you have dealt with a broken heart. If you haven’t, it’s that soul-crushing pain that one feels after a horrible break up or the death of a loved one. If you’ve ever wondered if you could die from the emotional distress, the unfortunate answer is yes.
While rare, death by what is known as broken heart syndrome is very much possible. Individuals that experience the effects of the syndrome are typically female and have pre-existing mental health concerns, such as untreated depression or severe anxiety disorders. It’s even possible to have a case of broken heart syndrome despite a physically healthy body and no previous history of heart disease .
Broken heart syndrome, otherwise known as stress cardiomyopathy, causes extreme chest pain, which enlarges the heart temporarily and leads to short-term muscle failure . Although very similar to the symptoms of a heart attack, broken heart syndrome does not block the arteries when under intense emotional pain, and has a much higher rate of survival. This condition was not studied until 1990 . Physicians are still in the process of fully understanding the signs, symptoms and treatment.
Regardless of the availability of treatment options, there are various steps that can be taken in order to prevent the condition from occurring. The primary coping mechanism that researchers have found is learning how to manage personal stress . While stress management looks different in every individual, researchers have the following suggestions that work best to maintain a healthy physical and mental lifestyle.
Although maintaining a balanced diet, exercising frequently and sustaining a healthy weight are all great ways to prevent the condition from existing, it is also suggested that individuals meditate or practice relaxation therapy frequently, quit smoking and alcohol-related behaviors and get adequate sleep. Other behaviors that may also be useful are finding an enjoyable hobby and learning to say no and creating boundaries that prevent stress overload. If you are an individual that particularly struggles with stress management, psychologists and physicians also highly recommend participating in a prevention program or taking medicine, as a last resort .
While the shock and distress of losing a loved one is never easy, let this condition be a reminder that taking care of yourself during this time is equally as important as processing grief.