Greenville, S.C. (WSPA)– It’s the plot of countless blockbuster movies, the hook in many hit songs, the topic of best-selling novels, and, unfortunately, something we’ve all experienced at some point– a broken heart.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, we spoke with a cardiologist about how experiencing a broken heart can impact the body.

Whether it’s caused by the end of a relationship or perhaps the death of a loved one, it seems like no one is entirely immune to experiencing a broken heart.

Many of us know just how painful it can feel.

But, did you know that feeling can actually trigger a temporary heart condition?

“Broken heart syndrome is a sudden, somewhat catastrophic loss of the heart’s ability to contract. It is sort of like sudden heart failure. Symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath, often very sudden in nature.”

Dr. Daniel Green, Cardiologist, Bon Secours St. Francis

It’s called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or as pop culture has coined it, “Broken Heart Syndrome”.

Cardiologist Dr. Daniel Green says any big stressful event can trigger it.

“That could be some major life change, the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, some large financial event, but it can also be associated with physical stress, like a disease, a bad infection, or another stressful, physical condition that a patient might be going through,” said Dr. Green.

A study published in 2021 in the “Journal of the American Heart Association” found more than 135,00 Americans had the syndrome from 2006 to 2017.

“About 1-2% of people who present to emergency rooms with concerns of a heart attack are actually having broken heart syndrome.”

Dr. Daniel Green, Cardiologist, Bon Secours St. Francis

Dr. Green says to go get checked out if you notice any of these symptoms…

“If you were to feel acutely short of breath, or have chest pain, particularly after a stressful event in your life, you should go to the emergency room,” said Dr. Green.

Some are more at risk than others for broken heart syndrome.

“The predominant patient population are women. About 90% of people with stress-induced cardiomyopathy are women and typically postmenopausal, so late 50s, 60s, and beyond. It’s not unheard of in younger populations, but it’s much more rare,” said Dr. Green.

Dr. Green says it will usually take four months for the heart muscle to fully recover from broken heart syndrome. Usually, there is no lasting damage, but…

“People can be susceptible to a recurrence of it. If they’ve had it once, they are at higher risk to have it again,” said Dr. Green.

For this reason, and to prevent ever experiencing the syndrome in the first place, stress management is crucial.

“We need to have people in our lives, people that we can rely on, people that can help us deal with stressful events… There are other things that we can do to help manage stress in our life like remaining physically active. There are excellent studies that show getting regular sunshine can help prevent or help people manage stress. There are also studies that show people with pets tend to deal better with stress. Having companionship, in general, I think helps people manage,” said Dr. Green.

If you are having trouble with stress or elevated levels of anxiety, it’s always good to talk to your primary care provider. They can provide resources or possibly medication to help you manage stress.

To submit a health topic for our ‘Ask the Expert’ series, click here.