Yes, you can die of a broken heart

Have you ever heard of someone passing away from a “broken heart”?

You may have thought it was a myth. But there actually is a medical condition called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle brought on by extreme stress. Takotsubo often goes by the name “broken heart syndrome.”

Cardiomyopathies (Greek for “affliction of the heart”) are a group of diseases caused by weak heart muscles. They are one of the leading causes of heart failure and heart transplants in the United States. They can lead to dangerous heart rhythms and sudden death — especially troubling in young competitive athletes who may not know they have a heart condition until it is too late.

With takotsubo cardiomyopathy, stress is the cause. But other cardiomyopathies come with varied causes: genetics, coronary artery disease, viral infections, toxins like alcohol and chemotherapy drugs, and even pregnancy. The symptoms tend to be subtle. They may not raise red flags in otherwise healthy patients. Too often, cardiomyopathy goes undetected.