Can you die of a broken heart?

pictures-carrie-fisher-debbie-reynoldsWith all the internet talking about Debbie Reynolds dying immediately after her daughter, Carrie Fisher – the question has again been raised about whether or not it’s possible to die of a broken heart.


I was also surprised to hear that Zsa Zsa Gabor’s son died after she did too, so when I saw the headline about Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher so soon after Zsa Zsa, I thought “Yes! It must be true! Can you imagine this happening twice in a week – just within the celebrity world?” Although then I discovered Zsa Zsa Gabor’s son actually died in a motorbike accident, which is still terribly tragic, but didn’t contribute to the theory that you can die from a broken heart.

So, can you die from a broken heart?

I imagine it’s difficult to know exactly, because although doctors can do tests and know the cause of death, they can’t exactly ask the heart why it chose to stop at that moment.


There is a condition referred to as “broken heart syndrome”, which doctors have a more fancy name for – stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy. According to the British Heart Foundation, this is a “temporary condition where your heart muscle becomes suddenly weakened or stunned. The left ventricle, one of the heart’s chambers, changes shape.”


Broken heart syndrome can also be brought on by a shock. The charity also states that “About three quarters of people diagnosed with takotsubo cardiomyopathy have experienced significant emotional or physical stress prior to becoming unwell.” It’s fair to say that this stress could be bereavement through the death of a loved one but it could be a shock of another kind, like loss of a job, domestic abuse, natural disaster, etc.


Still, it’s fair to say that although we do hear stories of couples dying close together, like  they still make the news because they’re unusual, rather than commonplace.


Although who can forget these couple from 2014, who died holding hands, hours apart…


I remember back in London many years ago, two of my female colleagues became engaged within the same week, and we celebrated with a team lunch.


At the lunch, one of the girls announced to the table:

“I can’t believe that I’m about to commit to only having sex with the same man for the rest of my life!”


And while everyone around the table was commenting on this, the other girl said quietly:

“I don’t think that’s the hardest thing about marriage. I think the worst thing about marriage is loving one person for the rest of your life, and eventually one of you will die and leave the other alone.”


Everyone fell silent.


It’s a sad situation indeed, but isn’t that a love we all want?


May the Love be With You



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