You Really Can Die of a Broken Heart

Your Bridge to Health; Promoting Optimal Wellness for Body, Mind and Spirit

Your Bridge to Health; Promoting Optimal Wellness for Body, Mind and Spirit

The World Has Lost ‘Bright Lights’ with the passing of ‘Mother-Daughter’ actors Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Two strong women known for their resiliency and humor, especially in the face of adversity and mental health issues. May they be together in everlasting peace. Peace to their family and friends. 

A Home in the Meadow – (The tidal beach pictured in this video reminds me of Good Harbor Beach.) 

Sung by Debbie Reynolds in the movie How the West Was Won, now seems a prelude to welcome her ‘home.’ Carrie Fisher died from complications of a heart attack. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds died one day later. While it is has been reported that Debbie Reynolds died from a stroke, dying from a broken heart is a real syndrome, and severe stress can cause the release of stress hormones that elevate blood pressure, constrict blood vessels and contribute to heart attack and stroke.

Dying From a Broken Heart – I first came across this syndrome while working as a registered nurse in cardiac rehab. One of our patients suffered what was believed to be a heart attack that occurred after hearing about the sudden and unexpected loss of their adult child. The patient was found to have clear heart arteries and no heart damage. They were later diagnosed with stress-induced cardiomyopathy.

Broken Heart Syndrome- also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy. (Tako tsubo is the Japanese name for octopus traps, which are thought to resemble the lower chamber of the heart.)octopus-trap-172293951725_1

Characteristics of Stress-induced Cardiomyopathy – 

  • Brought on by emotionally stressful events (E.g. the death of a loved one, divorce, break-up, outburst of anger, or even the sudden shock of something positive, such as winning the lottery.)
  • Caused by the reaction to a surge of stress hormones (from an emotionally stressful event.)
  • The heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well.
  • Women are more likely than men to experience the sudden, intense chest pain.
  • Can lead to severe, short-term heart muscle failure.
  • Broken heart syndrome is usually treatable, with most people making a full recovery within weeks.
  • Irregular heart rhythms and cardiogenic shock can occur, which can be fatal

Heart attack versus broken heart syndrome – In broken heart syndrome, symptoms occur suddenly after extreme emotional or physical stress. Here are some other differences:

  • EKG results are different than that of a person having a heart attack.
  • Blood tests show no signs of heart damage.
  • Tests show no signs of blockages in the coronary arteries.
  • Tests show ballooning and unusual movement of the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle).
  • Recovery time is quick, usually within days or weeks (compared with the recovery time of a month or more for a heart attack.)

Learning ways to deal with stress and our emotions is good for the heart, and can benefit our overall health and well-being.  Talk to your doctor about your risks of heart disease, prevention, and stress management. Contact me if you wish to discuss quick, easy and healthy ways to relax and decrease stress.

Knowledge is Power. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds continue to help people, even after their passing. Carrie helped many people with her open and frank talk and writing about addiction and bi-polar disease.  And before today, few people may have heard of takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Thank you to these two strong women. Keeping their family, friends and devoted fans in our thoughts and prayers.      ~ Karen


Karen Pischke B.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N. Alumnus. Certified Hypnotherapist, Tobacco Treatment Specialist, Usui Reiki Teacher/Komyo Shihan. Owner/Founder of Dreamtime Wellness LLC. Your Bridge to Health. Promoting Optimal Wellness for Mind, Body and Spirit Find us on Facebook –

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Sources and More Information:

American Heart Association

Harvard Health

Mayo Clinic