If you've ever been devastated by a loss or a breakup, it's not uncommon to say that you're "heartbroken." But can grief actually hurt your heart?
As it turns out, it's possible. According to a report from the New England Journal of Medicine, a 61-year-old Texas woman experienced a "broken heart" shortly after the death of her beloved Yorkshire Terrier.
Last year, Joanie Simpson went to the emergency room after waking up with a backache and severe chest pains. Soon after, The Washington Post reports, she was being airlifted to a hospital in Houston after doctors found that she was having heart-attack like symptoms.
However, doctors at the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute Texas Medical Center found that she wasn't actually having a heart attack. Instead, she was suffering from Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, more commonly known as "broken heart syndrome."
According to the American Heart Association, broken heart syndrome can be triggered by emotionally stressful events, such as the death of a loved one (yes, even pets). Last year, many speculated that the emotional toll of losing her daughter Carrie Fisher may have contributed to actress Debbie Reynolds' death. While we don't have all the facts in that situation, what we do know is that it's possible to experience a stress-induced heart event, even if you're otherwise healthy.
"I was close to inconsolable," Simpson told the Post about her Yorkie's death. "I really took it really, really hard."
While heart attacks and broken heart syndrome are very similar, the key difference between them is that those who suffer from a broken heart usually don't have the blocked arteries to show for it, according to the AHA.
These days, Simpson has recovered (and has a cat named Buster). She told the Post that she hasn't made the "right connection" with another dog yet, but is hopeful it will happen.
"It is heartbreaking," she told the Post of losing a beloved pet. "It is traumatic. It is all of the above. But you know what? They give so much love and companionship that I'll do it again."
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