Can I have a heart attack from a broken heart?

Jeffrey Goodman
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Acupuncture is used to address the physical and emotional symptoms of a "Broken Heart". It is very clear to anyone who has suffered a "Broken Hearted" state that the pain is more than simply a psychological event. Blood Stagnation would be the specific syndrome in Chinese Medicine.

Blood Stagnation is characterized by pain in a fixed location which may or may not be caused by a physical trauma injury. The nature of the pain is long lasting, can be severe, and is not noticeably effected to environment, digestion, or elimination. It does not move around the body.

In the case of Blood Stagnation with an emotional onset, most likely the person with the pain will be able to articulate the source of their distress. Strategies for addressing Blood Stagnation focus on moving the Stagnation, and improving the sense of self and direction.

This is actually a fairly common experience that most will encounter more than few times in their life. Acupuncture does wonders for this.


You might think of a broken heart as an emotional reaction that has nothing to do with your heart physically. Or maybe you suspect there must be some reason that we attribute severe emotional loss to a broken heart.


When it comes to broken hearts, medical science may be affirming folk tradition: a broken heart in some cases really is caused by emotional distress.


Researchers have identified a change in the heart that can occur under severe emotional trauma or other stressors (including physical trauma to other parts of the body). This condition is named takotsubo syndrome, or “broken heart syndrome.”


Takotsubo is a name given to the syndrome by Japanese medical professionals who noticed that some patients who presented at emergency rooms with the symptoms of a heart attack did not have blocked arteries. Instead, these patients all had an unusual injury to the heart – one that caused a distinctive and unusual shape to one of the chambers of their heart, the left ventricle. This chamber was shaped like a takotsubo pot used to trap octopuses.


These patients, more often women, experienced reduced functioning of the left ventricle. Broken heart syndrome in very rare cases can be fatal. More often, patients’ hearts experience little to no permanent damage after recovery.


It can be scary to go through a traumatic event and then experience the additional stressor of heart attack symptoms. If you do experience heart attack symptoms, do not hesitate to seek emergency help. You may have a blocked artery that could cause a heart attack. But if you have been under severe emotional stress, be sure to also communicate this to your physician (especially if you are a woman). It may aid in a speedy and accurate diagnosis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.