When a relationship ends, it is almost cliché to hear one party or the other (usually the one who got dumped) say that they are suffering from a broken heart. That feeling may now be much more than just a saying and women may experience from it more than men.
The study found women are 7 to 9 times more likely to have “broken heart syndrome” when they experience a sudden or prolonged stress like an untimely breakup or death. These stresses can cause overwhelming heart failure or symptoms that mirror a heart attack.
Remarkably, patients usually recover with no lasting damage. However, in about 1 percent of cases this syndrome proves fatal. Though more heart attacks happen in winter, the study found most occurrences of this syndrome occurred in summer. About10 percent of people will have a second attack at some point in their life, as well.
Broken heart syndrome can occur with any big emotional shock, even a happy one like winning the lottery. The shock can trigger a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones that basically cause the person’s heart to expand suddenly.
The dramatic changes in rhythm and blood substances in the person with this syndrome look like a heart attack except there are no artery blockages, which is what typically causes a “real” heart attack.
The University of Arkansas’s Dr. Abhishek Deshmukh had treated some of these cases and wondered why so many of them were women. So, he conducted the first large scale study of broken heart syndrome.
Dr. Deshmukh used a federal database with about 1,000 hospitals and found that only 671 of the 6,229 cases in 2007 involved men. After he adjusted for lifestyle factors including high blood pressure, smoking and other factors that could cause heart problems, he found women 7.5 times more likely than men to suffer the syndrome.