Can you die from a broken heart? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Can you die from a broken heart?

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Actress Debbie Reynolds' death, a day after her daughter's, left many wondering if she died from grief.

"I just know that it was, it was a broken heart," one fan said. "It clearly was a broken heart."

Her son, Todd Fisher, believes the death of his sister, "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher, was too much for his mother and he believes she suffered a stroke. But Reynolds' death is raising awareness about a rare but serious condition-- broken heart syndrome.

"We see this increasingly frequently," said Dr. Friederike Keating, a cardiologist at the UVM Medical Center.

Keating says she's seen about 50 cases in her 16-year career.

"Most folks that come in who have this feel like they're having a heart attack. It's one of the mimics of a heart attack. And we actually can't completely tell whether it's a heart attack or not until we do some of our tests," she explained.

It's called stress cardiomyopathy. Adrenaline hormones overwhelm the heart and part of it stops beating normally. In most cases, it's treatable with observation, some medication and time. But Keating says sometimes it can be fatal.

"It's very rare that somebody has this more than once," she said.

What cardiologists don't know yet is why more than 90 percent of the people who have it are women. Keating says some, like Reynolds, just lost a child.

"At least two that I can remember right off the top of my head that specifically learned of the death of their daughters," Keating said.

She says most people who suffer broken heart syndrome make a full recovery.

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