When Should I Worry About...

PODCAST: Can You Really Die of a Broken Heart?

Feb. 14, 2023


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Few of us are strangers to having our hearts broken. Whether the cause is a breakup, crushed dream or death of a loved one, a broken heart inflicts a special kind of pain. It's considered an emotional state, but we allude to more than just our frame of mind when we describe it. We "feel it in our bones," say our chest hurts and call it heartbreak, after all. In today's episode, we explore the science of a broken heart — how it can physically affect the body and whether it can cause actual heart damage or even, in certain cases, death.

Hosts: Zach Moore (interviewer), Katie McCallum

Expert: Dr. Devang Parikh, Structural Interventional Cardiologist

Notable topics covered:

  • Whether heartbreak can have physical effects on the body
  • Yes, broken heart syndrome is an actual medical condition
  • Why the syndrome can be confused with a heart attack
  • The emotional and physical triggers of broken heart syndrome
  • Everyday heartbreak can affect the body, too
  • How common is broken heart syndrome? Who's most at risk? What's the prognosis?
  • How your doctors can help unravel heartbreak syndrome's root cause
  • A reminder of why it's important to have great relationships with your doctors


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Episode Transcript

ZACH: Welcome to On Health with Houston Methodist. I'm Zach Moore. I'm a photographer and editor here, and I've worked in multimedia and television for over 15 years – and I'm also a longtime podcaster.


KATIE: I'm Katie MacCallum. I'm a former researcher turned health writer, mostly writing for our blog.


ZACH: Well, as I'm sure all of you're aware, today is Valentine's Day.


KATIE: Happy Valentine's Day, Zach.


ZACH: Happy Valentine's Day, Katie. If you're in a relationship or not, or hoping to be one, or just got outta one, Valentine's Day is probably on your mind.


KATIE: Yeah. It's always kind of there, huh?


ZACH: Yeah.


KATIE: Even if you don't –


ZACH: You can't escape it.


KATIE: Even if you don't really like it. It's for sure, social media and all of our emails about the sales will put it in our face constantly that, “Yes, it's Valentine's Day.”


ZACH: There is no escaping the hearts you see everywhere.


KATIE: Correct.


ZACH: But those are the emotional hearts.


KATIE: Yeah. Yeah.


ZACH: You see and the store window around your web browser. And well, we wanna talk about today is the physical heart. And the physical component of the term heartbreak.

KATIE: It's funny because like you said, we think of hearts in relation to, you know, loving someone. We think of the heart as like an abstract shape kind of thing. We also have a heart inside of our body. And yeah, where does it come from that we call it heartbreak? Is it because it does something to our heart? Or is this the abstract heartbreak of their feelings or emotions? Somehow, we've decided those are in our heart. Or is it physically there too? It's interesting.


ZACH: Yeah. You think about, you know, broken heart or people dying from in broken heart, and you think about like fairy tales and stuff like that.


KATIE: Does it happen?


ZACH: Yeah.


KATIE: I've heard it. I don't know. Is it real?


ZACH: Yeah. That's such an interesting exploration, at least in my opinion, of how we've evolved as, you know, as a society. We've really elevated emotional and mental health right up there with physical health. Where it always should have been.


KATIE: Oh, yeah. But I feel until recent years, we'll put it that way, those have been kind of pushed aside. Of like, “Oh, hey, you're feeling down. Get over it!”


KATIE: Yeah. And it's not really affecting you other than like, “It's in your head.” You know, get outta your head. Where I think anybody that has anxiety, or even just anyone that's felt stress. You do feel it physically, like the emotions and these things in your head are real things. Your brain coordinates everything in your body. So, if something's in your head, it's in your body too.


ZACH: Yeah. I think we've all experienced that, like, that rush of emotion, you know, good or bad, when you're in certain situations, you know you, see how people like, you know, you're about to go bungee jump or something, and you're like, it's something that you wanna do and it was fun. But then it's like, “I'm really scared right now, even though I wanted to do this.” And you're -- this storm of emotions inside you.


KATIE: Yeah. It's also interesting too, because when we have these feelings and emotions, we want to get them out of ourselves too. Like crying, sometimes crying feels so good.


ZACH: It's true.


KATIE: Because you're sad.


ZACH: Yeah.


KATIE: And like, you wanna just like the tears rushing down, kind of like all of the sadness is leaving in your tears. I don't know, maybe that's very like, philosophical in some way. But it is this thing of, there's a very physical side to these things we feel and stuff like that, how we react to them. But also, you know, as things as simple as when you're stressed, you sweat. When you have a broken heart, is something more going on?


ZACH: And that's what we're gonna explore in today's podcast. You talk to Dr. Devang Parikh, a structural interventional cardiologist here at Houston Methodist. And we look into the science of the broken heart.


[Sound effect signals a brief interjection in the interview]


ZACH: Alright, I'm here with Dr. Devang Parikh, a structural interventional cardiologist at Houston Methodist. Thank you so much for joining us today doctor.


DR. PARIKH: Oh, thanks for having me.


ZACH: So, a structural interventional cardiologist, would you mind just explaining what exactly that is?


DR. PARIKH: So, it's an advanced field of interventional cardiology, and it just is representative of some of the additional training that I did. Where my focus was really geared on trying to fix the valves of the heart without doing open heart surgery. So, the same wires and catheters that we use to fix heart arteries, we’re implementing that strategy to help fix the valves in various chambers of the heart that have issues. And that's where the structural work comes from.


ZACH: Gotcha, gotcha. So, our topic today is heartbreak, the science of heartbreak. So, to start off, can heartbreak cause physical pain in your body?


DR. PARIKH: Yeah, absolutely. The actual name for what you're describing is something called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. And that was first identified in 1990 by Dr. Sato. And the reason he came to that wording is because when he took pictures of the heart with a catheter and some dye, what he noted is that it looked like an octopus trap that they use in Japan. And that's where the word stemmed from. But the actual diagnosis of it includes people that come in with pain that makes them feel like they're having a heart attack. And that's the challenge sometimes in the diagnosis of this condition. But they truthfully come in feeling like they're having an actual heart attack, and that's not actually what's going on.


ZACH: Okay. Okay. So, we're talking about chest pain, nausea, that sort of thing.


DR. PARIKH: Yeah. Shortness of breath, nausea, sometimes people can pass out. They come in, their blood pressures are low, they're sweaty, they're clammy. And so, as an interventional cardiologist, you're all gearing up to go, you know, go fix whatever heart artery is blocked. And you get in there and you find all the heart arteries are completely fine. And so, then you're scratching your head kinda going, “Well, what's going on?” He's got, or she's got classic chest pain. The levels of the enzymes from the heart that would indicate damage to the heart are elevated, but I'm looking at these arteries and they look, you know, maybe better than mine. And that's when you start to put one and one together and go, “Oh, maybe there's something else going on.” And that's where this heartbreak syndrome is kind of been identified.


ZACH: So, heartbreak syndrome, not just a term. It is a tangible, real –


DR. PARIKH: Actual condition. It's an actual diagnosis.


ZACH: So, the stem of this issue, is it come from the brain? Is it a neurological thing that travels down to your heart? Or how -- what triggers this? As you said, if you look at the, the physical -the arteries and stuff, you really can't identify it being the same cause as a quote unquote “traditional heart attack” or something like that. So, what is the, the trigger for this?


DR. PARIKH: Yeah, so, nothing pinpoint, which is the vagueness of this is the complexity of this. And the challenge of it as a patient and as a diagnostician. So, the triggers can be multitude of things. It could be losing a job, losing a loved one, getting a divorce, big things in your life, life-changing events. It could be having a stroke, it could be undergoing surgery, even an elective surgery. So, one of my patients was undergoing an elective nose surgery because they, you know, they were snoring a lot at night.


ZACH: Mm-hmm.


DR. PARIKH: And in recovering from that surgery, they ended up having this condition occur. So, it could be a multitude of things, whether it's physical or emotional. The physical triggers tend to be a little more common about 40% of the time. And then the emotional triggers tend to be about 30%. And then the remaining is more of like a combined picture where you get some physical and emotional issues. So, we'll see it in patients that have had like big car accidents or something like that.


ZACH: Yeah.


DR. PARIKH: That can also be a trigger.


ZACH: That's fascinating ‘cause you -- we're always trying to connect your emotional state, your mental state, your physical state, and this is truly a very tangible manifestation of that.


DR. PARIKH: Yeah. So even though Dr. Sato described this in 1990.


ZACH: Mm-hmm.


DR. PARIKH: Or whenever it was. The actual thinking about a process like this has been going on for more than 50 years. I mean, this has been going on for a long time, that cardiologists are trying to put one and one together. It's only that since the nineties have we become more attuned to the fact that emotional and physical things that happen in our day-to-day life can have such dramatic impacts on the heart itself. And so, now we're paying more attention to it. We're trying to identify what causes it in a little bit more detail, because that still remains a bit of a mystery. We've been trying to identify some of these triggers, and then obviously the more important thing is, you know, how you're gonna manage it and how are you gonna recover from it.


ZACH: Yeah, as we've grown in our knowledge and an understanding of different aspects of our health, you know, we've seen how things like mental and emotional health have finally been considered on the same plane as physical ailments.


DR. PARIKH: Yeah, just as important.


ZACH: Right. ‘Cause you talk like back in, you know, the World War II days, people came back with shell shock and now we call that PTSD.


DR. PARIKH: Exactly.


ZACH: So, we have a medical tangible terminology to like, “Oh, well, he just has the -- he's skittish or he has the jitters.” “Like, no, this is a manifestation of this.” And that's kind of where we've gone. And also, the technology has evolved. You're talking about, you know, catheters and ink and all that stuff. That stuff wasn't around and, you know, in the 50s and now we have the technology to see that. And it's so interesting that – like, we always knew, like as a society that, “Oh yeah, well, I'm feeling this way.” And I mean, the term heartbreak itself, right. It means you're emotionally down, but you feel like, oh, you feel it in your, like in your chest, in your bones, so to speak, right?




ZACH: And now we can -- it's so interesting that now we can -- we can speak medically to like, “Yes, this is a real thing.”


DR. PARIKH: Yeah. And it's a true manifestation of that. Now, what causes it to happen is still a little bit of a mystery. There's a certain hypothesis that it's your sympathetic system, your nervous system releasing a bunch of hormones out into the circulation. And so, we tend to see it most predominantly in post-menopausal women.


ZACH: Okay.


DR. PARIKH: It’s where this condition is most likely to occur. And so, there's thinking, “Well, is the decrease in estrogen levels of these patients, is that putting them at risk?” There's also a thought that maybe there's an inflammatory process like an inflammation, almost like an infectious, like reaction that's occurring in the heart. And that part we haven't really sort of been able to sort out. I think the latest belief is that it's some combination of those two where there's the surge of hormones that's released by your body that just has a significant impact on the heart that then leads to inflammation of the heart. And then that temporarily affects the heart for a period of time until you recover from that event.


ZACH: You mentioned post-menopausal women being the most at risk, perhaps, of this. Are there other groups of people that are at risk?


DR. PARIKH: Yeah, I mean, I would say that it's anyone -- predominantly it's anyone that's over the age of 50.


ZACH: Okay.


DR. PARIKH: And so, I think for us as clinicians, we just have to have our antennas up when we start to put these pieces together and we sort of say, “Well, something is not jiving.” You know, they come in with this typical like chest pain that makes them think they're having a heart attack. Their electrical rhythm shows the same thing. Their blood tests indicate damage to the heart. But you go in and you look at the heart arteries and everything is fine. And I think that that's when you start to say, “Wait, was there something more to this story? Was there something else that happened that may have triggered this?” And that's when you start to go back into the history with the patient and tried to piece the -- some of this stuff together.


ZACH: You start asking about like, so have you experienced any loss recently or –


DR. PARIKH: Exactly.


ZACH: Tragedies in your -- accidents, etcetera.


DR. PARIKH: That's right, you go back and then you start trying to delve into a little bit of what's been going on with them as a person. And you start to say, “Hey, you know, maybe this is something that may have triggered this.” That's precisely what happened to my patient, is it was afterwards as we spoke, I was like, “Oh, you had this elective surgery. Maybe that's when it actually occurred.”


ZACH: Mm-Hmm. Now, how common is this? Is there a certain maybe percentage even within these more at-risk groups or –


DR. PARIKH: So, from what we can tell, and mind you, we may be missing some patients that have this obviously, right? Because not everyone is paying attention to whether this is happening or not, out in the nation. But roughly it's about 2% of cases of someone coming in with what we suspect is a heart attack. So, if all the cases of someone coming in with a heart attack in the world, one to 2% of them are this condition.


ZACH: Wow.


DR. PARIKH: This Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy or heartbreak syndrome.


ZACH: Okay.


DR. PARIKH: So very -- it's rare!


ZACH: That is a fraction of a fraction.


DR. PARIKH: Yeah, fraction of a fraction. It's a very small amount.


ZACH: So, it seems like we're able to relatively quickly diagnose the difference between one of these special cases and what a more traditional heart attack is.


DR. PARIKH: Yeah, I mean, I think so. Like you, I think, you know, alluded to, now that we've had such improvements in technology, you know, we can get Cardiac MRI imaging, CT imaging, ultrasounds of the heart so quickly, I think we've been able to come to these diagnoses much quicker than in the past. And I think that speaks to a little bit of some of the advancements we've made in medicine. I think people like to feel like we haven't made any real significant progress, but really the proof is that we're making these complex diagnoses quicker and quicker. And we're trying to get patients to the adequate treatment for them quicker and quicker. And in this condition specifically, it's so critical to come to that conclusion, right? Because you're taking them for a procedure where you're talking about putting a stent in or something into their heart arteries, which can have significant ramification for them. And then you're coming out saying, “No, everything is fine.” And maybe you just need a couple medications for maybe a couple weeks and then you're gonna be completely recovered. And that obviously can be a shock to a patient.


ZACH: Mm-Hmm.


DR. PARIKH: Because in their mind they're anticipating, “Oh my God, I'm having a heart attack.”


ZACH: Right?


DR. PARIKH: I've only read about this. And they're going through it. And then you have to kind of be the one that walks them back and says, “Hey, we've looked at all of this stuff and this is what we actually think is going on.” And so, you know, that education is critical. And we can't educate people without having that information. And so, that's an important part of this.


ZACH: So, broken heart syndrome, obviously the most extreme case of it is gonna be, you come in and you think you're having a heart attack, but before you get to that point, right. That there's -- is there like lethargy, you know, any kind of other physical things that before you get push over the edge and you're like, “Oh, we've crossed the point where now I think I'm physically having a heart attack, I need to come in, etcetera, etcetera.” Yeah, I mean, I don't know if there's necessarily any early signs where you're like, “Oh, you know, something's going on.” I guess the symptoms are so vague in terms of being short of breath and feeling tired. I mean, a whole host of things could be doing that. You know, I don't want people to go around being like, “Oh my God, I have broken heart syndrome ‘cause I'm short of breath.”


ZACH: Right.


DR. PARIKH: But at the same time, I think what it means is have great relationships with your primary care doctors, your cardiologists, and really talk about big life events.


ZACH: Mm-Hmm.


DR. PARIKH: I always make it a point to try and talk to my patients at the end of whatever our meeting is about, “Hey, what things are coming up in your life? You know, what's gonna be happening? You know, are there graduations or visit-- trips you're gonna be going on, you know, some big things.” And I think that that's an important relationship to build with your patients, so that if something happens, you know, you can start having a more serious discussion about kind of what's been going on.


ZACH: Yeah. You can have a baseline for where they are physically and mentally.


DR. PARIKH: Yeah. And as a patient then, you know, maybe you're more comfortable disclosing, “Hey, you know, this has been going on.” Or “I am going through this big life event.” Or “I got this really bad diagnoses.” Or “Someone in my family that I'm really close to, you know, this happened to. And since then, I've been feeling this way.” But I would say predominantly it's someone coming to the emergency room saying, “Oh my God, I'm having a heart attack.” And then that's when you find out that in fact, it's something else.


ZACH: Yeah, I think that speaks to a greater need for the patient/doctor relationship to your point. You know, if you're comfortable with your physician, if you're going regularly, as you all should, I know we're all guilty of not probably going as regularly as we should, but you should. You have that, that sense of familiarity, that sense of comfort. They know you, you're not walking into someone who you might consider a stranger. You're walking into someone who you might, you know, consider a friend.


ZACH: A friend. Exactly.


DR. PARIKH: Exactly.


ZACH: So, you're gonna be like, “Yeah, you know, it's – I broke up with this girl.” You know, for example.

DR. PARIKH: Exactly. No, absolutely. Yep, or, “You know, I was really looking forward to this job and, you know, three months in and they're letting me go because of whatever's going on. And you know, I've been feeling lethargic and short of breath, and feeling like my legs are swollen and you know what's going?


ZACH: And those things can add up over time to lead you to the emergency room as we've been discussing.


DR. PARIKH: Absolutely. Absolutely.


[Music plays to signal a brief interjection in the interview]

KATIE: The vast, vast majority of us won't have experienced broken heart syndrome, but we all know what heartbreak feels like. That gut-wrenching ache that hangs in the pit of your stomach, and it does literally feel like an ache. There's a reason for it too. A 2010 study showed that heartbreak actually triggers the area of the brain associated with experiencing physical pain. But why? Dubbed “social pain”, heartbreak, like many trying events and things, can cause the release of stress hormones. Putting your body in a state of fight or flight, increasing things like heart rate, and contributing to anxiety, nausea and more. It's why we sometimes can't eat, sleep, or concentrate after having our heart broken. The truth is that while heartbreak may feel like it's just feelings, our emotions can profoundly impact our physical body in many ways.

ZACH: More with Dr. Parikh, after the break


[Sound effect signals a brief interjection in the interview]


- From annual checkups to managing chronic conditions, your healthcare should be personalized to you. At Houston Methodist, our primary care doctors provide customized care for you and your family. With more than 40 convenient locations across Greater Houston, we offer a variety of ways to get care from in-person, and virtual appointments, to same day visits when you're sick. Choose your doctor and schedule online at houstonmethodist.org/stayhealthy. Houston Methodist, leading medicine.

ZACH: And we're back with our conversation with Dr. Parikh.


[Sound effect signals a brief interjection in the interview]


ZACH: Unfortunately, he can't prevent a broken heart, right? Heartbreak is gonna happen in this world unless –


DR. PARIKH: If only we could.

ZACH: Like, unless you're very fortunate, you meet -- your high school sweetheart, you live happily you ever after, good for y'all, right?




ZACH: But the sad fact is, you know, it's part of life, there’s heartbreak stuff, so you can't prevent that. But I guess to your point here is if you're keeping a close eye in your health and communicating with your primary care physician, etcetera. Then you'll have a good handle on it. Where, when you start to maybe feel this way or communicate these things, that you won't get to the point where you are having a -- I won't -- I wouldn't even call it a pseudo heart attack. I would, I mean, what is that -- what would that be?


DR. PARIKH: Yeah, you could, you could call it like a pseudo heart attack.


ZACH: Okay.


DR. PARIKH: Again, there's, when we do your blood tests, we're noticing damage to the heart. So, something had caused that, and it's just not, you know, it's not the classic artery is closed off to the heart. That's not what's happening here.


ZACH: Mm-Hmm.


DR. PARIKH: It's this surge of what we suspect is, you know, this hormonal system that's causing this to occur, but something is damaging the heart. So, it is a -- kind of a fake heart attack. To extend to your point, what I would just say is that fortunately the recovery is really good for most patients.


ZACH: Mm-Hmm.


DR. PARIKH: So, there's a 95% chance that you're gonna walk out and your heart's gonna be just fine within a matter of days to weeks. And so, during those days to weeks, you know, we do some degree of medications to help the heart recover some of its strength. But in about 5% of people there can be long-term consequences because of this. So, rare but it can occur. And so, that again, addresses the need for making sure that you have good relationships with your heart doctor and with your primary care doctor. Because in those 5% of situations, you really need someone trustworthy that's gonna be keeping an eye on you and making sure that they're, everything's being done to help that heart recover as best as possible.


ZACH: Yeah, I think these numbers are very important for us all to keep in mind. We're talking 5% of 2% of this incredible number of the hard attacks that happen every year. So, you know, every time you go through a breakup out there, everybody don't feel like, “Oh no, this is gonna be it, right?”


DR. PARIKH: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I don't want everyone walking around like, “Oh my God, am I gonna be the next one that has this.” Right? At the same time, I think having awareness of what can occur I think is important. And it allows you to hopefully protect yourself. And that should something happen, you know, you have an outlet, and you have someone that you can go to that you can talk to about it. The medications are, you know, fairly benign. And like I said, usually it's a matter of a couple days or a couple weeks that you're on it, and then you're completely off and you're back to normal. One thing I would also add is that the recurrence is very rare. So, some people feel like, “Well, it happened to me once, is this gonna happen to me again next year?” And the chances are very small, we're talking like 1.5% in terms of an annual recurrence. And in six years the recurrence is maybe like 3% to 5%.


ZACH: Yeah, I think that's an excellent point too. Someone will be worried about, “Well this is how I respond to this.” Right?


DR. PARIKH: Right. So, like, “You know, it happened to me once I'm about to lose my job, or I'm about to go for this, you know, elective surgery, is this gonna happen to me again?” And the chances are very unlikely.


ZACH: Yeah, and that's a great point to know. When you say heartbreak, your mind goes to, you know, the classic, you're walking in the rain and Hollywood movie or something like that. It’s the expectations, goals, things that fall through that can cause emotional stress.


DR. PARIKH: Oh, yeah. 


ZACH: Heartbreak as well. So, we're just talking about our relationship breakup, something like that. So, you know, these are the trials that we suffer in this world.


DR. PARIKH: We're human, right?


ZACH: Yeah.


DR. PARIKH: You know, we're all susceptible to this. You just want to be aware. I think us as physicians, we wanna be aware of that for our patients, but, you know, educating patients themselves is important. And just know that the prognosis is really good. Diagnosis of it has become a lot easier. And so, it makes things a little bit more straightforward. It's not as complicated and it’s not as -- it's not as complex as you make it out to be.


ZACH: Mm-hmm.


DR. PARIKH: And that's important to understand.


ZACH: So, in summary, we're all gonna experience heartbreak. We're all gonna experience, you know, forms of, “Oh, you're down in the dumps because something didn’t materialize the way you were hoping. You know, your goals, relationships, etcetera. We've all been there, we all will be there again, unfortunately, that’s the way of the world, right? But broken heart syndrome is not the same as, you know, emotional heartbreak, that intangible emotional heartbreak. So, in summary here, let's just bring it all home. Broken heart syndrome, exactly again, what is it? What can prevent it? And how do you recover from it?


DR. PARIKH: Broken heart syndrome is specifically a transient weakness of your heart muscle related to a physical or emotional trigger, that occurs outside of the presence of any heart artery disease. And so, it's an isolated event that triggered the surge of hormones that causes a weakening of the heart muscle. And really the long-term prognosis is very good. The identification of it has become a lot easier. And most patients, 95% of patients, recover full heart function within a matter of a few days to a matter of a few weeks. There may be a temporary period of time where you're on one or two medications and then you're off. But the important thing to know is that when you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, feeling like something is wrong and you're just not quite yourself. Those are times to seek out medical care. And I think in the midst of this pandemic and a lot of stuff that goes on, people have shied away from doing that. But know that untreated it can be dangerous. And so, have a good relationship with your doctors. Seek them out if you feel like something is wrong, and just know that there's a good prognosis at the end of this if you take good care of yourself.


ZACH: Alright, well, thank you so much for your time today, Dr. Parikh.


DR. PARIKH: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me again.


[Sound effect signals a brief interjection in the interview]


KATIE: Zach, how's your heart feeling after this?


ZACH: Well, I'm not heartbroken.


KATIE: Okay.


ZACH: So, that's a plus. But it was very eye opening that this is a tangible medical condition.


KATIE: Yeah.


ZACH: You hear something like broken heart syndrome, and you think it's some placebo effect or something like that, right? But no, like, this is a real tangible, diagnosed medical condition that affects people in a very tangible way.

KATIE: Yeah. I think we got our question answered too, of can you die of a broken heart? He mentioned that broken heart syndrome itself is incredibly rare. I think, you know, 1% chance of a person getting it. And then from there, most people go on and recover perfectly fine. A fraction of a fraction of those people.


ZACH: Right.


KATIE: Could potentially have even worse outcomes, but incredibly, incredibly rare to actually die of a broken heart, it sounds like.


ZACH: Yeah, it is. Dr. Parikh and I talked about, don't feel like you're suffering from this if you're just having a bad day.


KATIE: It's the reminder too that that chest pain is something to still take seriously. Your chest pain being broken heart syndrome, pretty rare. So, take it seriously and get it checked out. If it ends up being broken heart syndrome, you know, that could be a better prognosis than some other things, but it's not a reason not to go, that's for sure.


ZACH: Right. You know, you hear that term broken heart syndrome and you know, there's an emoji for broken heart, right? So, I think, like you don't -- it doesn't seem like overly like medical and serious, but –


KATIE: Is that how your heart breaks?


ZACH: Yeah. It's like it’s been ripped in half and a zigzag in the middle is crucial to that, right? Yeah. But that's the imagery that us as a society have grown up with and been around. As much as you see the heart everywhere, as we talk about off the top of Valentine's Day, you see that broken heart everywhere for other situations. Also, and again, this is the point that we wanted to keep reiterating. It's not just my significant other breaking up with me, or something romantic. It's -- there are lots of other situations, stressful situations, even stuff like surprise. Which can be a positive emotion, can trigger something like this.


KATIE: Yeah, I think especially for people who maybe look at Valentine's Day, you know, and broken hearts as, “Okay, look, I've been with my significant other forever.” And it's not really something you think about anymore, but heartbreak can be losing a loved one or bad news about your career, maybe. There's a lot of things that can basically make you feel like you're heartbroken. So, I thought that was interesting too, kind of hearing that. I think you and I both came into this with a pretty romantical idea here of, “Oh, someone breaks up with you and you're so distraught about how you're gonna have to live your life without 'em.”


ZACH: Right. You know, you just picture yourself, like walking in the rain and pianos playing. And you're like, “This is heartbreak. This is what it looks like.”


KATIE: Yeah.


ZACH: So, it's the limitations of the English language too. It's like love, right. There's so many – you know, you go to the Greek, right? There's so many different words for love.


KATIE: Well, and as you noted, we've only kind of just started let -- having it be okay to talk about our feelings.


ZACH: Yeah.


KATIE: So, our vocabulary around our feelings is probably pretty limited.


ZACH: Yeah. So, we're gonna have to update that dictionary.


KATIE: Yeah.


ZACH: Alright. Well, and then ultimately, to wrap up here, I did wanna reiterate what Dr. Parikh and I had talked about. About stay in contact with your primary care physician.


KATIE: Yeah.


ZACH: Letting them in on what's going on with you. Like, not just physically, but like emotionally. Him just checking in like that, that's a very important component of your health.


KATIE: That was such an interesting point. You know, it's funny, I have a couple friends, they're always like, “Oh, I don't need a doctor. I'm still like, you know, young and stuff. I don't need a doctor yet.” And it is -- it's that reminder of keeping in touch with your doctors so they know something about you. So, you're not just, you know, some blood work on a chart or some symptoms on a chart. They're like, “Oh wait, I know, I talked to you three months ago. And you had just lost a grandparent, and I knew that was a stressful time for you, and now you're coming in with some symptoms.” They can put those symptoms in context way better when they know more about you. I mean, you're not just numbers on a page, and you don't wanna be. And so, having that relationship with your doctor, your cardiologist in this case too, really important. I think this is a great reminder of that. In such an interesting context of heartbreak.


ZACH: Yeah, and I think, you know, age is an important factor, as you said like, you know, we're younger, we like to think of ourselves as younger. We're –


KATIE: I still consider myself a young adult for sure. I think I'm pushing it, but –


ZACH: Exactly. But you know, we're getting to that age we're like, our parents are getting older. Sometimes you go to the doctor with them. I've observed that with my mom. I've gone with her and like, her and her doctor, like have a good rapport and a good knowledge of -- and I'm like, “Oh, she's asking about this or that. You know, all these personal facts.”

KATIE: Yeah.


ZACH: And maybe, you know what? Be a little more vulnerable. Open up to your doctor, let 'em know what's going on. Because the more information they have, the better they can help you.


KATIE: Yeah, absolutely. And it gets back to how mental health and physical health really are tied together. And I think, I know a lot of primary care doctors are asking about mental health at annual checkups now and things. I think everyone's realizing that the two are so closely tied, just like as we're seeing heartbreak can cause heartbreak syndrome. So, I thought it was a really interesting way to – the medical spin on something we've all experienced in our kind of general lives.


ZACH: Alright, well, regardless of what condition your heart’s in this Valentine's Day, I hope you enjoyed today's topic. And be sure to share, like, and subscribe On Health with Houston Methodist, wherever you get your podcasts. If you enjoyed this conversation for more topics like this, visit our blog at houstonmethodist.org/blog. Stay tuned and stay healthy. 

[End of episode]

Categories: When Should I Worry About...