Doctors say broken heart syndrome not folklore

More women likely to suffer from condition

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AVENTURA, Fla. - Albear and Rosine Hassoun were inseparable during their 67 years of marriage.

Even so, family members were surprised when Rosine had a massive heart attack and died shortly after her husbands death in 2011..

"A major component of her death is that she didn't want to live anymore.  The moment he died in November she was alive, but she wasn't living," said her niece Orit Mimoun.

Mimoun believes her aunt died of a broken heart.

Studies show that widows and widowers are more than 30 percent likely to die within six months of their spouses death and that's not all.

"They even showed that heart rhythms, heartbeats, can be synchronized or seem to be synchronized in couples who have lived together a long, long time," said Dr. Alan Ackerman with the Institute for Cardiovascular Wellness in Aventura, Fla.

Ackerman said there is now proof of another form of broken heart syndrome; the medical name is stress cardiomyopathy.

"The sudden news of something bad happening can trigger a reaction in a woman of something similar to having a heart attack or going into heart failure," he said.

Doctors believe it is a surge of hormones that cause the heart to go haywire.

Ackerman said women are seven to nine times more likely than men to suffer from the condition.

"These so-called broken hearts have a distinct ballooning appearance on one end with a narrowing on the other end but the arteries are clear," said Ackerman.

Some of the symptoms of broken heart syndrome are chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat and general weakness. 

In cases where the heart is not already damaged, recovery from the syndrome usually takes about two weeks.

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