Broken hearts and physical pain - Newstalk

Broken hearts and physical pain

Broken hearts and physical pain
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18:37 Tuesday 25 September 2012

Heartbreak was thought to be an emotional state but studies now show that it can physically harm you.

Scientists say that extreme fear, anxiety and even surprise can damage your heart in what they call stress cardiomyopathy or “heartbreak syndrome”.

Dr Ilan Wittstein coined the term in 2005 for its association with the death of a loved one.

But, he says, it is not always triggered by grief. The extreme stress of an event releases a surge of adrenalin which paralyses the heart. It can’t squeeze normally and blood flow is reduced.

Broken heart syndrome feels similar to a heart attack but is not caused by a blocked artery.

Instead, the heart is “stunned” and usually recovers with no permanent damage, but in sever cases, a sufferer’s heart might fail.

Almost 90% of broken-heart patients are women – most of which are over the age of 55.

Wittstein and his team set up a stress cardiomyopathy registry in 1999 to understand the disease fully.

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