Heart strings – Can you really die of a broken heart?

The connection between the emotional and physical body is strong. Our thoughts and feelings effect our bodies. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one or a lost love or failed relationship in your life you likely have experienced the sensation of your heart actually physically aching.


The phrases have made their way into the English language “Tugging at my heart strings” “Broken Hearted” and its often said that someone has “Died of a broken heart”, but what are heart strings and can extreme sorrow actually kill you?


Surprisingly the answer is yes. Broken Heart Syndrome is a real condition. In medical terms it is also known as Stress-Induced Cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. It is often mistaken for a heart attack as the symptoms can be very similar. In fact, tests show dramatic changes in rhythm and blood secretions that are typical during a heart attack. But unlike a heart attack, there’s no evidence of blocked heart arteries.


In Broken Heart Syndrome part of the heart becomes enlarged which forces it to work harder. It doesn’t function normally and the contractions become stronger and sometimes faster causing palpitations which may also be mistaken for severe anxiety.


Heart strings are a nickname for the Chorda Tendineae tendons that support the muscular structure of the heart itself. They connect the papillary muscles to the tricuspid valve and the mitral valve in the heart. Broken heart strings (Chorda Tendineae tendon rupture) can occur in otherwise healthy individuals and can rupture or snap due to severe emotional trauma.


It is usually treatable, though undoubtedly very painful and scary to experience. Recovery usually happens within a couple of weeks. *Though in rare cases it has been fatal. There are documented cases where people have actually “died of a broken heart”.


Though it can happen in both men and women, women are more likely to experience BHS. It has been known to follow stressful events such as the death of a loved one, messy divorces, and major life changes – especially sudden unexpected ones. Strangely it can also happen after a positive major shock such as a massive unexpected inheritance or winning the lottery.


What to keep an eye on:

The most common signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome are chest pain along with shortness of breath. No history of heart issues is needed for BHS to happen.

Arrhythmias or cardiogenic shock can also take place. Cardiogenic shock is a condition in which a suddenly weakened heart can’t pump enough blood and it can be fatal. Medical attention should be sought right away.


How can the doctor tell if you are having a heart attack or experiencing an episode of Broken Heart Syndrome?  http://www.tampacardio.com/diagnostic-testing/

  • EKG: results differ from EKG results for a person having a heart attack.
  • Blood tests: show no signs of heart damage.
  • Tests show no signs of blockages in the coronary arteries.
  • Tests show ballooning and unusual movement of the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle).
  • Recovery time is quick, usually within days or weeks (compared with the recovery time of a month or more for a heart attack).

While there is no way to prevent life changes from occurring which may ultimately lead to stress, we suggest doing your best to keep life simple and stress at a minimum. If you experience chest pains, please do not hesitate to see your doctor. It is always best to err on the side of safety. Please give Tampa Cardiovascular Associates a call at (813) 975-2800 or if you are reading this in an emergency please close your browser and dial 911. www.tampacardio.com

Originally Published: Tampacardio.com

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