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Broken Heart Syndrome: Can It Kill You?

Broken Heart Syndrome: Can It Kill You?
One of the worst feelings you may ever experience is having your heart broken. Whether it's from a break up, losing a loved one or going through an emotional experience, the pain you go through can seem unbearable.

Did you know that having a broken heart is not just an emotionally intense experience, but can also affect your overall health? In fact, doctors are now starting to recognize a broken heart as a real condition known as cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome.

What are the symptoms of broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition that can be brought on by stressful situations. Usually, people with broken heart syndrome mimic the symptoms of a heart attack; chest pain and shortness of breath.

Even though you may not be having a heart attack, if you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should get them checked out just to be sure.

Given the severity of the symptoms, can you actually die from a broken heart?

Dr. Cynthia Thaik shares what broken heart syndrome is and how it can impact your health.
Featured Speaker:
Cynthia Thaik, MD
Cynthia Thaik Harvard-trained Dr. Cynthia Thaik is a heart doctor that practices with her heart. She delivers security and peace of mind to her clients by orchestrating behavioral and mindset shifts to evoke lasting transformational changes in their health, well-being, vitality, energy, and creativity. She has helped thousands of people make changes to transform their lives through the ways they think, feel, and act.

Dr. Cynthia will explore the dynamic growth and healing processes of our ever-evolving hearts and the importance of treating our health, hearts, and lives as gifts. An acclaimed cardiologist as well as a practicing Buddhist, Dr. Cynthia unites Eastern and Western medicine to uncover the mind body connection that places the power of healing back into the hands of patients.

RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: April 9, 2015
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD

Dr. Pam Peeke founder of the Peeke Performance Center and renowned nutrition and fitness expert, and Michelle King Robson, leading women's advocate, cut through the confusion and share the naked, bottom line truth about all things woman. It's HER Radio.

PAM: Hey, Michelle, can you really die of broken heart?

MICHELLE: I think that I've been a situation or two where I thought I was going to die from a broken heart and now we know that there is such a thing, right?

PAM: Yes and I think that so many of our listeners on HER Radio are probably sitting there saying, "Yeah, yeah. Been there. Done that." But, did you know there's science behind this?

We have an expert Dr. Cythia Thaik, who is going to help us understand what's behind this dying from a broken heart issue She's got a terrific book, Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength and Spirit from the Body's Core. She's a Harvard trained heart doctor and she delivers security and peace of mind to her clients by orchestrating behavioral and mindset shifts to help them through their transformation from a broken heart. Dr. Thaik, welcome to HER Radio.

CYNTHIA: Thank you so much.

PAM: What is a broken heart?

CYNTHIA: Well, you know, a broken heart is what we think of in the literary world of, you know, romance and, you know, a heartache that occurs from a crisis, whether it's the death of a loved one, a relationship breakup, or it can also occur from other stressors such as, financial strains. You know, feeling cheated by somebody, etc. Or, even something fun like a surprise birthday party. So, something that causes such a stressor in your body that leads to, you know a release of all the stress hormones. Mainly, the adrenaline, the norepinephrine, the epinephrine, the cortisol levels. But, subsequently, can cause come cardiac event, whether it's the stress-induced cardiomyopathy or weakening of the heart, or even a heart attack in some cases.

MICHELLE: Right. So, Cynthia. I could use this, if a man wants to break up with me. I can say, "You can't break up with me because you're going to give me broken heart syndrome."

CYNTHIA: You know, it is rare that it happens, so I don't want your listeners to be out there and thinking, "Oh, my god. If I'm ever in a relationship..." or, you know, I don't want them to be out there fearful for this.
PAM: Oh, I don't know. It's pretty for such a good guilt point, you know?

MICHELLE: Good for guilt.

PAM: Go ahead and make them feel rotten with guilt.

MICHELLE: Riddled with guilt.

PAM: Yeah.

MICHELLE: But, I agree with you. I totally agree with you that you don't want to scare women and I think it's important to know what the symptoms are, right? What the symptoms are of broken heart syndrome.

CYNTHIA: Right. So, when we talk about the broken heart syndrome as defined in the medical world, it does mean that there is an actual cardiac event that occurs. For a lot of people that go through life's stressors, you can have some discomfort, tightening in your chest, that feeling of anxiety. I don't think that, you know, equates to a broken heart syndrome or a broken heart—maybe on the emotional end of things, but not on the physical end of things.

The broken heart syndrome that we refer to in medicine is really when there's an acute crisis, really an extreme condition where the body just goes into almost like a shock, sort of like a fight and flight with a rush of adrenaline. When people present in that manner, it can mimic a heart attack and people can really feel the chest constriction, the tightness, the shortness of breath, feeling nauseous and dizzy. Oftentimes, when they present to the emergency room, even the laboratory parameters and the ultrasound findings will give the appearance that they're having a heart attack.

PAM: Well, can I ask you a question, Dr. Thaik?


PAM: Who is at most risk for this? You know, women are probably sitting out there saying. "Okay. Fine. It's sort of more of a rare condition, etc.," but they're probably saying to themselves, "Am I vulnerable for this? Am I susceptible?" So, who should be on the lookout?

CYNTHIA: Well, you know, I think that we haven't...because it is so rare, I think that it just...It hasn't...You know, science hasn't been able to do the phenotype or categorize the type of person or the personality that might be more at risk. That said, when we have done research or studied people who have presented in case studies, it tends to be more females than male. It definitely tends to be in sort of the mid range and up. So, I do think that people who are already susceptible to having the normal coronary artery disease—those that have diabetes, who are obese, etc.—if they have underlying heart disease, are, obviously, at greater risk, but it can occur in the absence of all the risk factors.

MICHELLE: So, when should someone consider going to the doctor?

CYNTHIA: Well, I think that...I always advise my patients and particularly my female clients, that women present with atypical, you know, in atypical ways, when they have the garden-variety of a disease, and so, you always want to be on the lookout when you have any symptoms in the chest area. You know, chest pain, discomfort, pressure, heaviness. It could be jaw discomfort, shoulder, shortness of breath, feeling dizzy. I always go back to trying to teach my clients that there is a fine line between trying to listen to your intuition for when you know or think that there's something wrong with you versus being fearful and going into that fear-driven, anxiety state.


CYNTHIA: And so, I think that, in general, I don't want the listeners to be out here with their antennas up, looking for this, what I want them to do is more develop sort of a sense of inner knowing, trying to become familiar with their body. I always tell people, "You know, when the body talks, the body is a physical manifestation of your internal state, you're internal balance state. So, when symptoms present, get insightful, get quiet, get mindful. Ask yourself that question. You know, "Is this something that I need to be worried about?" But also, at the end of the day, if the symptoms persist, if they don't go away, seek medical attention.

PAM: You know, Dr. Thaik, what I see, you know, in your bio, you're also a practicing Buddhist in addition to being a claimed cardiologist. I'm curious, how do you incorporate this into what we're now talking about: the treatment. And, even maybe the prevention of this kind of an issue?


PAM: How do you...What kind of elements do you use from your own blend of Eastern and Western medicine?

CYNTHIA: I think first is the realization that the body doesn't sit in isolation. That's always a mind/body/spirit connection and that there's a thread that always runs through. So, part in parcel to my addressing the physical heart issues, you know, dealing with nutrition, fitness and detoxification is really helping patients to deal with their mind and how critical their mindset and the thought process plays in their physical health. So, in this case, say, the broken heart syndrome and dealing with an emotional stressor, learning how to change our perceptions, right? Learning how to manage that; learning how to always remember to bring in gratitude and elements of love and stay into that heart-centered world. You know, have meditative practices; having biofeedback skills—those are all critical in trying to head off and prevent this type of situation, whether you have physical heart conditions or not.

PAM: I think that that's beautiful, Michelle. Don't you?


PAM: Really looking at all of this together. I want everyone to get on out there and buy Dr. Cynthia Thaik's new book, Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength and Spirit from the Body's Core.

The message here is so string. Yes, there is something called "the broken heart syndrome". Yes, you can prevent it and, using more mindfulness strategies and staying in touch with your body is an ideal way to do this and Dr. Thaik has helped us understand how to be able to incorporate that in our own wonderful wellness on a daily basis.

Thank you so much, Dr. Thaik, for being on HER Radio. I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson.

MICHELLE: Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook. Stay well.