We've all heard of a broken heart, but can it kill you?
The disorder is called takotsubo cardiomyopathy or Broken Heart Syndrome. Although it can strike anyone (none of us are immune to tragedy), it is much more likely in older women and those widows and widowers who are recently bereaved after 30 or more years of marriage.
When we experience the sudden loss of a loved one, our bodies release stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones flood the heart and cause a stunning effect. The pain of this replicates that of a traditional heart attack, as it is often misdiagnosed. However, with a heart attack the arteries and heart experience lasting trauma. If stricken with Broken Heart Syndrome and the sufferer manages to survive the initial attack, there is no lasting damage with recovery occurring in as little as two weeks.
Researchers believe Broken Heart Syndrome is a prime example of the inextricable link between the body and the mind. That our grief can manifest itself physically is proof of the extraordinary human condition; yet, the disease if rarely diagnosed. This may be due to the fact it is most likely to occur in older couples who may already have preexisting conditions. One famous example: Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. They died within 3 months of each other in 2003.
As sad as the passing of a loved one is, there is something inherently beautiful about a great love being able to withstand even death.