Rehab specialists say stress can impact heart

Rehab specialists say stress can impact heart (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The death of actress Debbie Reynolds just one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, raises the question, can a person really die from a broken heart?

Broken Heart Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that can set in after a sudden tragedy. According to the National Institutes of Health, it's a condition where extreme stress can lead to heart muscle failure. Usually it's severe but short term and a person does recover.

Whether or not that is the actual cause for Debbie Reynolds death, people will likely never know but family members have said they do believe she died of a heart that was broken and hurting from the loss of her daughter.

Local 12 talked to both sports medicine and cardiac rehab specialists at Saint Elizabeth Healthcare about the syndrome Thursday, December 29. They said it was not uncommon to have heart events or stroke following stressful life events and there were things people can do to manage those risks.

Lowering blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels was a good place to start. But if people do all those they still need to know any life stress is especially hard not just on the heart, but the whole body.

Michelle Svec with St. Elizabeth Cardiac Rehab said, "Stress really can change the chemistry and physiology in your body and it can affect every system in your body, your cardiovascular system, your GI system, your sleep. It can really take toll on your overall health."

Some other important things to know about broken heart syndrome, NIH researchers said it was more common in women than in men. It's often triggered by extreme emotional or physical stress that can be grief, anger, or surprise. Researchers said hormones that release in the body with these may actually stun the heart and its ability to pump blood to the body.

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