We've all heard this: "She died of a broken heart." It's said frequently when a person dies and their loved one dies shortly after. Nurses who are medically trained are often quick to dismiss this and seek a true scientific cause for the person's death.
Don't be so quick to decide that dying from a broken heart is just folklore and nonsense.
Many of us have seen it for ourselves. I've even seen it occur with my dogs. I owned two Border Collies several years ago. When one passed, the other one soon followed for no apparent reason. Nurses who work in Long-term care tend to see this phenomenon, but none of us are really sure what causes it.
This type of death even has a name in medical literature. it's called Takotsubo syndrome. On autopsy, the heart appears to be trapped on both ventricles and balloons out from the upper chambers as if it is attempting to escape.
The symptoms can mimic a stroke or a heart attack and people often attribute the death to stress. But the huge surge of stress hormones from the shock of a loved one's death can effect any heart at any age. Most people survive these attacks, but they can result in death if the heart is already too weak to withstand the sudden hormonal influx.
According to medical literature and explanations by Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “It appears to be a massive heart attack,” but, she said, “the heart is literally stunned.”
There are estimates that approximately 1 percent of all heart attacks are due to broken-heart syndrome and all cardiologist are familiar with cases like the one involving Debbie Reynolds.