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Ask Marilyn: What Causes the Physical Pain of a Broken Heart?
D.?O. in Oregon writes:
Marilyn: My daughter just had her heart “broken.” She didn’t have a heart attack, but it felt like one. What causes the physical pain?
The medical term is stress cardiomyopathy. Symptoms may include chest pain and shortness of breath. When a susceptible person is suddenly walloped by a massive amount of stress hormones, part of the heart’s main pumping chamber may stretch and weaken. Triggers can range from an emotional breakup to learning of the death of a loved one.
The event is not a classic heart attack, but it can stun the heart into malfunctioning. One should seek medical care promptly. Damage to the heart muscle is possible, depending on one’s underlying conditions, which may have contributed to the episode in the first place.