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HindustanTimes Wed,03 Sep 2014

It’s official! You really can die of a broken heart

ANI  London, November 06, 2012
First Published: 13:52 IST(6/11/2012) | Last Updated: 14:09 IST(6/11/2012)

According to experts, sudden intense emotions like grief, panic or even happiness can shock your body into a fatal heart condition.

A mother, named Lindsay Clift, lost consciousness and passed away after learning that her first child had died in the womb.

Now experts say the shock of losing her baby could have led to her sudden death effectively due to a broken heart, the Mirror reported.

Dr Alexander Lyon, a senior lecturer at London’s Imperial College and consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital, said this may have been a case of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a condition also known as broken heart syndrome when triggered by bereavement.

Current figures suggest that around 2 percent of the 300,000 ‘heart attacks’ each year will, in fact, be broken heart syndrome.

“Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a temporary condition where your heart muscle becomes suddenly paralysed and the left ventricle, one of the heart’s chambers, changes shape. Usually the paralysis recovers, but occasionally stress can lead to a cardiac arrest during the acute episode, due to a disturbance in the heart’s intrinsic electrical activity,” the Mirror quoted Dr Lyon as explaining.

“With no other cause of death known at the moment, it is conceivable that Lindsay experienced a huge adrenaline surge with her episode of emotional stress, which led to cardiac arrest,” he said.

Dr Lyon believes the same could be true of Marcus Ringrose, 60, who died hours after the funeral of his wife of 34 years, the actress Mary Tamm, 62.

Mary, most famous for her role in Doctor Who as the Doctor’s companion, Romana in the 70s, passed away in July after an 18-month battle with cancer.

Previously ‘fit and well’, an inquest held two weeks ago found grieving Ringrose had died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome – caused by a ­disturbance in the heart’s rhythm, which can be triggered by emotional events.

“Given the absence of coronary artery disease, the likelihood is that this was also a stress-induced sudden death due to high levels of adrenaline and this is a form of broken heart syndrome,” Dr Lyon said.

Although called Broken Heart Syndrome, it can also be caused by unexpected happiness, such as winning the lottery, and not just grief.

And research shows that about 90 percent of diagnosed cases are in post-menopausal women, which has baffled scientists.

Dr Lyon’s theory is that it is the post-menopausal drop in hormones, which, prior to the menopause, protect women from huge stresses.

“These women have had a drop in oestrogen levels so a sudden surge of stress hormones and adrenaline creates a perfect storm of risk,” stated Dr Lyon.

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