COVID Comorbidity: Can You Die From a Broken Heart?

can you die from a broken heart

The COVID pandemic has changed human life in more ways than we ever thought possible. 

One of these, is the isolation and increased time spent either alone or with a partner during extended times of quarantine or illness. 

With our lives already upended, the end of a relationship or death of a partner hits even harder than before, but can it kill you? Can you die from a broken heart?

Unfortunately, many medical professionals and COVID widows/widowers are starting to think that the answer is yes.

Can You Die From a Broken Heart? “Broken Heart Syndrome”

The stress and loss experienced during the COVID pandemic may make you feel like your heart is going to explode, or like you’re heading for a premature heart attack. As it turns out, you may be more right than you think.

Out of the patients hospitalized for cardiac issues during the heaviest pandemic months, 7.8% were hospitalized with a specific form of stress caused illness called stress cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome.” 

This is a 6% increase from pre-pandemic cases - an alarming increase for a strange ailment caused by an increased level of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, due to a particularly traumatic or life-changing event.

Common symptoms of “broken heart syndrome” include:

  • Heart palpitations or rapid heart beat
  • Extreme dizziness or fainting spells
  • “Butterflies” in your chest
  • Painful tightness or extreme pain in your chest

You may notice that these symptoms are extremely similar to a heart attack. 

This makes “broken heart syndrome” particularly tricky to diagnose, and all patients with these symptoms should seek out medical attention for any of these issues if they surface, especially suddenly.

But, what can they do about it? How do you treat heartache?

Healing Broken Hearts

As you may imagine, an illness similar to a heart attack may have potentially devastating, though rare, side effects and ensuing complications in your body. 

“Broken heart syndrome” is no different. According to the Mayo Clinic, in the most extreme cases, this surge of stress hormones in your body can prove to be fatal. 

In less drastic, but still critical cases, other complications can include the following:

  • Backup of fluid into your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Disruptions in your heartbeat
  • Heart failure (partial or complete, the latter causing potential death)

Fortunately, “broken heart syndrome” can be treated. Doctors have ways of keeping you from dying of a broken heart. 

Treatments that may be administered range from pain medication and close monitoring in mild cases, to supplemental oxygen in more moderate cases.

They may also continue to run tests after treatment is completed to make sure that your heart function has returned to normal. Additional medication may also be prescribed for a short period of time to help your heart adjust to pumping to capacity. 

Any remaining symptoms should go away on their own after two to three days, and your heart should return to its normal function in about a week.

Can I Do Anything To Prevent “Broken Heart Syndrome”?

Fortunately, you can! 

While you obviously can’t prevent a life-changing event or the disruption of a relationship, especially nowadays, you can be pragmatic with certain lifestyle choices to help limit your risk to both “broken heart syndrome” and other stress-related illnesses. 

The advice is fairly straightforward: Limit your caffeine, keep your heart healthy through exercise and heart healthy foods, get adequate sleep, and avoid alcohol consumption. 

Remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even with the events of late, and especially if a relationship ends. It’ll be okay. Keep healthy, stay strong, and remember to breathe.

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