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Broken Heart Syndrome - A Link Between Love and Health

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms what romantics have known for centuries - people can die from a broken heart.

Sharon Lawson was preparing for her daughter's wedding, when doctors told her that perhaps her cancer had returned. The news was overwhelming.

"The emotions are very powerful when you're praying that you're going to survive for your daughter's wedding just 6 months down the road. I felt faint and I let the crew know that, and the doctors and technicians rushed to my aid," said Ms. Lawson.

Her blood pressure suddenly dropped, and an electrocardiogram revealed her heart was struggling - all symptoms of what some doctors now call, "broken heart syndrome."

Doctors at Johns Hopkins studied 19 people who had been rushed to the hospital after a sudden stressful event. Blood tests revealed that their adrenaline levels were up to 35 times higher than normal. Adrenaline is a stress "hormone". This is Dr. Ilan Wittstein of Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"The amount of adrenalin produced overwhelms the heart and actually causes what we call a stunning of the heart," said Dr. Wittstein.

Dr. Noel Bairey Mersz, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center describes patient treatment. Dr. Mersz says the patient "very rapidly needs to be given oxygen, needs to be given medication to help blood vessels dilate, needs to be given blood thinners."

Researchers say the syndrome may be more common than most doctors realize.

"Now that doctors are going to be able to recognize the syndrome, I think we're going to be hearing a lot more about it," said Dr. Wittstein.

The good news is that the heart can fully recover. Sharon Lawson was out of the hospital within a few days, and made it to the wedding.

"And I had a wonderful time at my daughter's wedding!," said Sharon.