Sudden shock could lead to "broken-heart syndrome," study finds

Share this content:

It turns out there is such a thing as a broken heart -- but you can't die from it, a recent study found.

A sudden shock, such as hearing news of a family member's death, can trigger a condition that appears to be a massive heart attack except the victim does not suffer lasting damage. Researchers have dubbed this condition the "broken-heart syndrome."

While the condition looks like a heart attack, the heart is only temporarily stunned, according to the report, which appears in The New England Journal of Medicine. Japanese doctors described the syndrome in the 1990s, but the recent report is the first to identify the condition in the United States.

A heart attack occurs when a blockage, often a blood clot, interrupts blood flowing to the heart. People who suffer the "broken-heart syndrome," have no sign of a blood clot or blockage, and no evidence that the heart tissue had been irreversibly damaged, the report said. Patients' heart functions return to normal, in two weeks.