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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Farnill

Can You Die of a Broken Heart?

“Can you die of a broken heart?” is an interesting question and the name of a book I have read by Dr Nikki Stamp. She is a heart surgeon and provides an amazing insight into what our heart looks like when it is stressed physically and emotionally.

The simple answer to this question is yes, you can die of a broken heart. In fact this phenomena has a name, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, and is where there is an emotional shock that sends our bodies into overdrive of hormone production. The result is the arteries in the heart going into spasm, squeezing the top of our heart and a ballooning effect to the bottom of the heart. This makes it impossible for the heart to pump (imagine a very full, overstretched balloon, trying to pump fluid) and when the heart stops pumping properly there is a lack of blood supply causing unfixable damage.

This is more commonly seen in women, 90% of cases are women, whereas the 10% of males seen with this condition generally occur from a physical shock or trauma, rather than an emotional shock.

The flip side of this is the incredibly high rate of heart disease seen worldwide regardless of having a broken heart and risk factors for heart disease are:

· Overweight

· High cholesterol

· High blood pressure

· Diabetes

· Smoking

· Over 45 years old

· Long term stress

· Social isolation

· Family history of heart disease (a predisposition to heart disease can be in your genes)

Some of these risk factors you have control over like smoking, while others you have a little less control over, like your genes predisposing you to heart disease. However you can still reduce your risk of heart disease with the following tips:

· Lower your stress

· Learn mindfulness to calm the body

· Exercise to get the heart pumping

· Yoga to get the heart pumping and lower stress levels

· Eating well to get great nutrients for your body to function on

· Getting enough sleep

· Having 1 coffee a day

· If you eat chocolate go for dark chocolate – the higher the percentage of cacao the better but definitely over 70% and no more than 100grams of chocolate a day

· 1 standard drink of red wine – it has a resveratrol, which is an antioxidant that protects the body against damage

All of these reduce the inflammation in the body, which is the bad stuff that causes so many diseases, and these activities increase heart function, keeping the heart healthier.

Symptoms of a heart attack or heart disease you want to know and look out for are

· Chest pain – for example feeling like an elephant is sitting on your chest, squeezing chest pain, pain radiating down the arms or up the throat or to the shoulder blade

· Short on puff – feel like you ran a marathon all the time

· Short of breath when lying down

· Swelling around the ankles

· Palpitations – being abnormally aware of your heart beat

· You’re worried – you know your body so being worried or anxious warrants a chat with a doctor about your heart

Remember ANY damage to the heart is UNFIXABLE so you want to stay on top of all the activities to help your heart stay healthy so you can hopefully avoid heart disease and its catastrophic effects.

Your levels of stress as well as your reactions to past trauma are some of the biggest negative influencers on heart health. However these are directly in your control.

To take back control of your heart health and stress work with me as I focus on your wellbeing and can help rebuild yourself. Together let’s make sure that these stresses and traumas don’t drag you down and you can move onto a life full of freedom.

If you have any other questions please contact me at

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