Yes, You Can Die of a Broken Heart

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NBC Nightly News
Brian Williams/Dr. Nancy Snyderman
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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Researchers at John Hopkins University are tracking "broken heart syndrome," a sometimes fatal condition in which intense emotional or physical stress causes the temporary malfunction of the heart.


Heart, Heartbreak, Broken Heart, Syndrome, Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest, Cardiomyopathy, Stress Cardiomyopathy, Love, Loss, Grief, Sadness, Sorrow, Relationships, Stress, Hormones, Stress Hormones, Adrenal Glands, Women, Ilan Wittstein, Johns Hopkins University, Medical Mysteries, Health, Wellness



"Yes, You Can Die of a Broken Heart ." Nancy Snyderman, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 24 Sep. 2012. NBC Learn. Web. 11 January 2020.


Snyderman, N. (Reporter), & Williams, B. (Anchor). (2012, September 24). Yes, You Can Die of a Broken Heart . [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Yes, You Can Die of a Broken Heart " NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 09/24/2012. Accessed Sat Jan 11 2020 from NBC Learn:


Yes, You Can Die of a Broken Heart


A family obituary in this morning’s New York Times announcing the death of the mother of Christie Brinkley at the age of 91, says her heart never survived losing the love of her life, her husband, who predeceased her by seven weeks. It’s very common after the death of a long-time spouse. But is sadness also a medical condition and worst of all could it truly be fatal as it often appears to be? Our report tonight from our Chief Medical Editor Doctor Nancy Snyderman.


Cyndy Bizon’s husband Joel had been in the cardiac ICU at Maine Medical Center for three days recovering from a heart attack as she held vigil in a nearby waiting room. You’re constantly waiting for someone to come out and—


Dr. SNYDERMAN: --talk to you and your stress hormones are off the charts.

C. BIZON: Always on edge but I thought I was doing fine and I thought I was handling it very well.

Dr. SNYDERMAN: But she wasn’t.

C. BIZON: I remember coming, standing by the nurse’s station, talking to someone. And as I was talking I said, wow, I really feel dizzy and I remember grabbing on to a counter and just trying to hold on for support. And at that moment, a black cloud just-- curtain just came down over my eyes that I couldn’t shake away and that’s the last thing that I remember.

Dr. SNYDERMAN: Cyndy was in full cardiac arrest suffering from something literally called broken heart syndrome. Ninety percent of the patients who experience it are postmenopausal women, mostly over age 55.

DR. ILAN WITTSTEIN (Johns Hopkins Medicine): We think that as women age, their hearts and small blood vessels around their heart become more susceptible to the stress hormones. So a stress that you might experience at the age of 25 when your estrogen levels are high might not have the same effect on your heart as it might when you’re 65 years-old.

Dr. SNYDERMAN: The extreme stress of her husband’s medical crisis triggered Cyndy’s brain to send a signal to her adrenal glands, which released an unusual surge of stress hormones into her blood stream. That surge rushed to her heart, essentially paralyzing part of it, causing it to balloon out like this, and then shut down.

Dr. WITTSTEIN: There are cases of people dying of this condition, and when I’m asked can you die of a broken heart? We say absolutely, yes, you can.


C. BIZON: Smells good, huh?

Dr. SNYDERMAN: Cyndy and Joel both recovered, and now celebrating life’s simple pleasures has taken on new meaning.

J. BIZON: You know we don’t slip the small stuff. We live to enjoy life.

C. BIZON: Enjoy each other.

J. BIZON: Yeah.

C. BIZON: We’re grateful for every moment that we have.

J. BIZON: Is that good.

C. BIZON: Good.

Dr. SNYDERMAN: This is not a heart attack, though the symptoms may mimic one. Heart attacks are caused by blockages. This is simply a case of the heart being stunned by all those chemicals rushing to it. It’s a temporary malfunction and the heart usually recovers completely if it’s recognized in time, Brian, important thing is to recognize it. And I think they are frankly under-recognized in this country.

WILLIAMS: One of the true enduring medical mysteries.


WILLIAMS: Nancy, thank you, as always.