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Healthy Living

Caution: Hearts Can Really Break

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 02/26/2010
Last Updated: 03/27/2019

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How many times have you said – or heard someone else say – that their heart is broken? Personally, as a young(er) woman, I had my heart broken many times prior to meeting the man that I would marry. Oh, the drama…but it really hurt – not just mentally, but there was a real, physical ache.

Well, it's true. A broken heart is a real medical condition.  Things that can cause it? The death of a loved one or an extremely upsetting traumatic situation; in other words, acute emotion.

Now it’s all making sense to me. Some years back, hubby and I went to a 60th surprise party. Our friend planned it meticulously for months, making sure every detail, down to the color of the cake frosting, was in place. Scheduled for 7:00 PM sharp at one of those fabulously cool restaurants in New York City, they showed up, ready to enjoy the special evening. Only thing was, the birthday boy wasn’t the only one who was surprised when we all yelled "SURPRISE!"– we all got our own surprise when his wife passed out. That's right – out cold, caught in the arms of her husband, by the luck of his fast reflexes. She never even got to take off her coat and greet her guests. An ambulance whisked her and her family off to the nearest ER, and there we sat, ready for a party but unable to really do much but wonder about what happened.

It was about an hour later (when no one could really eat, but what choice did we have, since the food was brought out and being served?) that we found out she had suffered a major heart attack.

A recent article in the wrote of "Broken-heart syndrome."  It's still a heart attack, but unlike the "classic" attack triggered by a blocked artery this type is different. The trigger: stress. A surge of adrenaline overwhelms the heart. The left ventricle (which is the heart's main pumping chamber) freezes and is unable to contract and pump blood effectively.

And in Thursday's , Michael Luo wrote of three workers - all from the same steel mill in New York - who had heart attacks within weeks of one another. All were in relatively good health. Guess what they had in common? The stress of losing their jobs.

Ah, stress. So much to be stressed about, so often. That's why it's so important we figure out healthy and constructive ways to deal with it. Notice I didn't say "eliminate" it?

Have you ever had a broken heart?

And how do you deal with your stress?

You might also want to read:

Sometimes You Have to Do Less to Get More

Eating To Beat Stress and Depression

Five Ways to Sideline Stress


It always seems as if older couples die together--within days or weeks of one another. And you have to wonder if a broken heart isn't the true cause.

Alisa, I agree. In fact, thinking about it, when I was in a cemetery some years ago I couldn't help but notice the dates on tombstones of husbands and wives - and how close they often were to one another.

I'd also add that I think people who hold terrible grudges can damage their hearts.

Absolutely, Roxanne. I agree. That's why forgiveness is so important, not only for the spirit but for the body itself.

Such an appropriate post. My stress levels have been so out of control lately and I'm struggling with how to manage it. I do find sitting down on the floor and stretching and breathing helps.

I hope you can find the way to manage your stress levels - good thing you found a way with stretching and breathing! May you find many more.

Stress at work brought on my dad's heart attack. Knowing this, I do my best to mitigate stress, related to work and keep in mind what really matters.

I believe it! When my Dad died (technically, he had a disease called Multiple System Atrophy, but it was a heart attack brough on by MSA that ultimately killed him) I had intense chest pain the next day. It literally felt like my heart was breaking, but I chalked it up to sympathy pains for what he'd gone through. Over time, though, the physical and emotional pain dissipated and I could return to my normal life.

That's so sad and interesting at the same time, Susan. And so true. Sorry about the loss of your Dad, of course. Glad you were able to return to your normal life over time!

Stress is a real killer and not always easy to control.

Donna and Alexandra, So true. Stress will always be around, in one shape or form, and all we can do is try to control it as best we know how!

I think stress is always on our minds. It has become a very popular topic in the blogosphere. I find myself constantly thinking about what I can do to deal with the stress in my life. I found that the best way to handle stress is to make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep and stress go hand in hand. If you can not get 7-8 hours of sleep a night all the other stresses will weigh heavier on you and this will definitely lead to other health problems.

Cascia, Thanks for writing. I so agree. Without enough sleep I am good for nothing. A non-or tiny-stress suddenly becomes bigger than life and so hard to deal with. So my rule to myself is to get enough sleep, even if that means not having enough time in the day to get everything done!

When I read this article it really hit home......I was under a max load stress for the past year(family fighting, job loss, loss of job, loss of auto, depression, loss of living my peaceful life-alone... I was internalizing it all/and one evening while at a casino(just relaxed, playing the slots)it hit me suddenly. I thought I was really going to die...the worse pain I have ever experienced-like a hard, constant stabbing/sharp right between my breasts and went all the way through to my back..up my shoulders. I could not move, could not take a normal breath, could not talk......it did not ease up or stop. When the paramedics arrived they knew it was my heart. I just couldn't believe it...I am 57 yrs old, wt. 135 lbs, healthy/fit, eat right, exercise, no cardiac history--in fact I have low lipids, low bp, low bs. I had a mild heart attack with the damage to the bottom of my heart...and a leaky valve/irregular heart rhythm. I am a RN and yes I was in denial when it happened....I have excepted that it did happen but I refuse to be debiliated by it. I take a baby asa daily now, try to walk each day and exercise. I am doing the healthy approach---cardio chelate orally/garlic/parsley/magnesium/probiotics..and healthy food. I am teaching myself the art of properly dealing with stress.

Oh my goodness, Rita. What an ordeal! And I'm sure you were as surprised as anyone, especially given your age and health habits. But that stress...that stress is a lot for anyone to take. Good for you for taking good care of yourself now. And best of luck for a health, heart-problem-free future.

I think we often underestimate the body-mind connection. Reminds me of the work of Bernie Siegel, MD, who talks about these connections in great detail in his books. If you haven't checked out his work, I highly recommend Love, Medicine & Miracles. I read it years ago, but still remember the stories.

Yes, I also read Bernie Siegel years and years ago. As I remember, he was really into the notion that our minds can control our bodies. And they can in so many ways. (But I have to say I have my problems with his theory that we can control really serious diseases, like cancer, with our minds.)


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