Broken heart syndrome can kill you

(WFLX) - Whether it's getting dumped on Valentine's Day or losing a loved one, emotional events can have an impact on your health.

You can actually die of a broken heart! It's called "broken heart syndrome".

It was just before Christmas when Carmel Mechlin was traveling with her daughter and three grandchildren. Then, all of a sudden, life changed. "It was like, 'Oh my God'. And we realized a gentleman ran a red light and hit the driver's side of the van."

In the crash, Carmel's instincts were to think of her family. Her 2-year-old grandson and 2-month-old twin grand babies were in the back seat. "It was frightening and life changing."

It turned out they were all ok from the crash, but then Carmel noticed something. "I started experiencing heaviness in my chest, and when I would breathe, I would have really bad pain."

All tell-tale signs of a heart attack.

Carmel was rushed to the hospital, went through all kinds of testing, and got a surprising diagnosis from her doctor. "He is the one that said I had 'broken heart syndrome'. My heart was 100 percent healthy before that."

Dr. John Tugaoen, cardiologist, explained, "It's like a fight or flight. You're adrenaline in your system just goes suddenly high."

Dr. Tugaoen says broken heart syndrome is something doctors saw, but weren't sure how to diagnose. It's caused by a sudden, stressful emotional event. "Like somebody broke up unexpectedly, somebody died unexpectedly, or like an automobile accident, like this patient."

It looks and feels like a heart attack with the same symptoms, but it's not.

The heart swells and is weak, but here's the good news. Most patients fully recover in a few weeks. "Majority of these patients are back to normal, like nothing happened," explained Dr. Tugaoen.

Just like Carmel who's going strong at 65. "It really makes you aware of your body and when it's telling you something you better pay attention. Your life can change in a matter of seconds, and I do feel blessed."

Learn more about 'broken heart syndrome'.

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