Healthline: Broken Heart Syndrome

Healthline: Broken Heart Syndrome
Debbie Reynolds and daughter, Carrie Fisher.
Debbie Reynolds and daughter, Carrie Fisher.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The shocking death of Debbie Reynolds just one day after her daughter's passing has many wondering if she died from a broken heart. It is possible, although family members said the legendary actress died from a stroke.

Baton Rouge cardiologist Jeffrey Hyde, M.D. has seen about 30 cases of what's known as "broken heart syndrome" over his 10 year career. It's
recognized by the American Heart Association and is also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy (a Japanese word
for octopus traps that resemble a bulging heart).

"The presentation is interesting," Hyde explained. "It's very much like a heart attack, feels like a heart attack. EKG changes can be reminiscent of a heart attack, however the difference is the arteries are open."

With broken heart syndrome, the heart is basically stunned as a reaction to a surge of stress hormones. It balloons outward, causing intense chest pressure and shortness of breath.

Broken heart syndrome is rarely fatal, and Hyde said all of his patients made a full recovery. The cause can be anything that shocks the body or the mind. "I've seen it in patients who've lost loved ones suddenly, chronic caregivers who've taken care of a spouse with Alzheimer's for months and months on end, one woman had an argument at the bank," Hyde recalled.

Reynolds' stroke was likely caused by extreme blood pressure and intense stress. Her broken heart was probably a contributing factor, but not the direct cause of her death. Because the symptoms of broken heart syndrome are so similar to a heart attack, a trip to the emergency room is always recommended. Doctors can quickly determine what's causing the pain and provide the proper treatment.

Our Lady of the Lake has a free online tool to assess heart health and your risk of developing heart disease.

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