Broken Heart Syndrome and How to Prepare

Did You Know…heart break can cause physical damage to your heart?

Sometimes, the pain of a broken heart is more than emotional.  The sudden loss of a loved one… a break-up… or even a natural disaster can cause physical damage.  This occurrence is called Broken Heart Syndrome (BHS)—and there are ways you can prepare and protect yourself from permanent damage.

Broken Heart Syndrome 

BHS is known medically as stress cardiomyopathy, a temporary heart condition triggered by severe stress.  When an unexpected stressor arises, some individuals experience symptoms similar to those that accompany a heart attack, such as…

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Low blood pressure

The symptoms start minutes, or sometimes hours, after the stressor occurs.

Broken Heart Syndrome vs. Heart Attack 

BHS and heart attacks differ in important ways.  Heart attacks are caused by blood clots, but with BHS, the coronary arteries are often normal with no blockage or clots.

Scientists have yet to determine the underlying cause of BHS, but research indicates hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system could be involved.  The sympathetic nervous system controls what is commonly called the “fight or flight” response.  When that system runs too hot, your body can enter a sort of “shut down mode.”

Other factors that may contribute to BHS include…

Coronary vasospas
Estrogen deficiency

Some investigations into potential causes of BHS point to a cellular component called mitochondria.  Sometimes called “the powerhouse of the cell,” mitochondria generate a large percentage of cellular energy.  Research suggests that BHS causes the mitochondria in your heart cells to “stall out.”

When “The Powerhouse of the Cell” Shuts Off

For one trial, researchers used a medication to induce BHS in rats and then documented the fallout.  While heart muscle injury and blood pressure symptoms lingered for a few weeks after the initial stressor, the heart cells eventually recovered.  The researchers also measured the effects on the mitochondria, and found…

  • Poor metabolic function
  • Fragile membranes
  • High oxidative stress levels

Though the mitochondria had clearly been damaged, they had not died.

When your mitochondria are already compromised, the odds that you will experience BHS rise.  Substances known to elevate your susceptibility to BHS include (but are not limited to)…

Meat meal
Carbon monoxide

How to Prepare for a Broken Heart 

There’s no way to shield yourself from every painful or shocking event life might bring—to live at all is to risk a broken heart!  You can, however, protect yourself by avoiding substances known to damage your mitochondria.

Even better, you can take steps to nourish those “cellular engines” with the nutrients they need to stay strong.  Mitochondria require a number of nutrients for optimal function, such as…

  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Thiamine
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Vitamins C, D, and E
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine
  • Lipoic acid
  • Grape seed extract
  • Quercetin
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Many of these nutrients can be obtained from the food you eat.  However, in our high-speed, high-stress world, our diets don’t always give us all that we need.  If you identify potential dietary deficiencies, experts say you should consider adding a supplement from a reputable supplier.  Think of it as preparing for a heartbreak life might send your way.