Love Hurts: A Broken Heart Really Is Bad for Your Health

Having a broken heart can be really bad for your health – and not just your mental health. There’s even a name for it: “Broken heart syndrome.”

And while it’s still a mystery to many in the medical field – new data from researchers at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., may help physicians better understand the condition.

Researchers at the hospital created a registry of 70 patients who were diagnosed with the syndrome between July 2004 and April 2008.

Most of the patients were post-menopausal women who had experienced a very stressful physical or emotional event just before the onset of symptoms. These ranged from bad news about a family member to a domestic argument and even a car accident. All of them arrived at the hospital with heart attack-like symptoms, including chest pain and shortness of breath.

Although 20 percent required emergency treatment to keep them alive – doctors found that all patients survived the first 48 hours and experienced a full and complete recovery.

"It can be difficult for cardiologists and emergency room physicians to diagnose and manage patients with broken heart syndrome,” Dr. Richard Regnante, who led the study, said in a news release.

“However, this data will helps us better understand the disease process and could play a major role in developing and tailoring more effective short and long-term treatment strategies. We do know that it is rarely fatal as long as patients are fully supported with medications, respirators and other critical devices in the first 48 hours.”

The report, published in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology, follows research by Japanese doctors who first described broken heart syndrome in the early 1990s.