Can Someone Die from a Broken Heart?

Did Debbie Reynolds die from a broken heart? Her son, Todd Fisher, reports she told him, “I miss her (Carrie Fisher) so much, I want to be with Carrie.” Fifteen minutes later, he said she suddenly died.

We don’t know much about what happened to her, however, family members suggest it may have been a stroke. But we wondered if there was a connection between such a cause of death and the great deal of emotion Reynolds was experiencing.

How Debbie Reynolds’ Death Hit Us

We were just beginning to really mourn the death of Carrie Fisher, the famous Princess Leia in Star Wars and daughter of Debbie Reynolds. Tributes were flowing in the form of drawings, comics, and tweets from people–famous and anonymous–telling memories or saying good-bye.

Then the news broke. Followed by clips of her from “Singin’ in the Rain”. Debbie Reynolds was a big Hollywood star in her own right, peaking in the ’50s and ’60s.

How could two connected women pass so close together? A reader and friend DM’d us and asked if there was any research to back the concept of dying from a broken heart.

What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

There is a cardiac (heart) condition that is caused by suffering from extreme stress. It is called “Broken heart syndrome” or Stress Cardiomyopathy. The malady was discovered in Japan by a doctor who called it Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. The affected part of the heart balloons into a shape that looks like an octopus trap. It was only recently that specialists and researchers in the United States started to accept this condition after a few cases appeared in the U.S.

When a person develops Broken Heart Syndrome and endures the disabling event, it feels like a heart attack. A portion of the heart is temporarily disrupted. The rest of the heart, however, functions normally. The symptoms are often treatable, and the condition reverses itself in a few days or weeks. However, in an older person like Reynolds or someone who has a weakened heart, the body is unable to manage. It can eventually manifest as a stroke or an actual myocardial infarction (heart attack) and lead to death.

What Causes Broken Heart Syndrome?

It is unclear what causes Broken heart syndrome. Some medical professionals have surmised it could be caused by a large surge of stress hormones like adrenaline. This stuns the heart, because it constricts the large or small arteries of the heart. It presents itself as a heart attack. The difference between Broken heart syndrome and a real heart attack is Broken heart syndrome doesn’t have clogged arteries. This is the defining characteristic of the syndrome. - Broken Heart

Broken heart syndrome is usually preceded by an intense emotional or physical event. Some of things include grief, surgery, chemotherapy, and others.

Most patients recover within days or weeks, and there is no lasting damage from it. Some doctors may prescribe ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, or diuretics. This will help ease the strain on the heart while you recover.

Did Debbie Reynolds Suffer Broken Heart Syndrome?

We don’t know. She had some of the traits that can lead up to Broken heart syndrome. Her daughter, Carrie Fisher, died the day before. Reynolds was extremely close with Fisher. This was her child. That would cause intense grief. Did she die from Broken heart syndrome? No. It is tentatively being ruled as a stroke. - Debbie Reynolds with daughter Carrie Fisher

But Broken Heart Syndrome has also never been an official cause of death. The academic information we do have to work with seems to indicate that Debbie Reynolds’ age, coupled with the syndrome, could have led to a stroke.

We’ll never know, but she is at rest and free of pain with her daughter. Her son said, “She’s with Carrie now.”

3 thoughts on “Can Someone Die from a Broken Heart?

  • December 30, 2016 at 11:05 am


  • December 30, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    Yes, it is a medical fact.

  • December 31, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    She had prior strokes, she hadn’t slept, she was under lots of stress after discussing funeral plans. All of that could have caused her death, especially at her age! Just saying!


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