Broken Heart is Real, says Cardiologist

Most of us have suffered from a broken heart at some point in our lives. Is it just an emotional expression of love gone wrong…or is a broken heart a bonafide medical condition?

Loyola University Health System cardiologist Dr. Binh An P. Phan says that broken heart syndrome is a very real medical condition. It occurs during highly stressful or emotional periods like a broken romance, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or intense anger.

The medical term for it is “stress cardiomyopathy.” Symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of a heart attack and include chest pain and breathing difficulty. During highly stressful events, adrenalin and other stress hormones can surge and overwhelm the heart, causing narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Fortunately, broken heart syndrome usually goes away over time, leaving no lasting damage to the heart.

“Most people will get better in a few weeks without medical treatment,” said Phan in a press release.

Because the symptoms of broken heart syndrome and heart attack are so similar, people with heart attack symptoms should call 9-1-1 rather than assume anything, advises Phan, who is director of Loyola’s new Preventive Cardiology and Lipid Program.

More on American Heart Month

  • Just a Little Heart Attack (VIDEO): Watch this entertaining and informative video of a typical woman experiencing heart attack symptoms. Do you see yourself in this portrayal?


Image: Hemera/Thinkstock


Elisa F.
Elisa F4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Bmr Reddy
Ramu Reddy4 years ago


Silvia G.
Silvia G5 years ago

Interesting. Thanks!

Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago

I suffer from this when I am extremely stressed.

Tim C.
Tim C5 years ago


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


Mrs M.
Linda M5 years ago

How pitifully sad.

Jane Barton
Jane Barton5 years ago

Teresa W., you are absolutely right. But pain exists and it is the result of our own hormones released into our bloodstreams. Stress hormones cause chest pain, fast heartbeat and many other physical symptoms. I don't like the terminology used, however. It suggests the actual physical heart has "broken" and that is impossible. It should be called what it is, clinical depression. Grief from any kind of loss can cause clinical depression and the symptoms do indeed "seem" to come from the region of the heart but they don't. Muscle spasms of the esophagus are what cause chest pains. People who are clinically depressed
often have reflux esophagitis and increased peristalsis which causes increased secretion of
copious amounts of stomach acid. All of this is caused by increased adrenalin secretion which starts the chain reaction. As long as grieving lasts there will be increased adrenalin secretion and of course physical symptoms. I have lived through this and I know what I'm talking about.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe6 years ago

2 years ago I had Broken Heart Syndrome when my Mom passed away. I was seeing 4 doctors at the time and they were all worried I was going to have another heart attack since I was having trouble breathing and my chest hurt along with my feeling of grief. They changed some of my medicines, but it took awhile before my breathing and chest pain eased. I miss her every day!!!

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

So true!