Why Women Are More Likely To Suffer From A Broken Heart

Suffering from a broken heart is more than just a figure a speech, according to scientists - and women are up to nine times more likely to be hit by the condition.

Research has found that an emotional trauma, such as a relationship break-up or the death of a loved one, can trigger heart failure or heart attack-like symptoms, known as 'broken heart syndrome'.

Dr Mariell Jessup, a heart specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, says a classic case is "a woman who has just lost her husband".

But it's not just bad news that can trigger the condition. A positive shock, such as winning the lottery, can have the same effect.

The emotional shock triggers a rush of adrenaline and other stress hormones that cause the heart's main pumping chamber to balloon suddenly and malfunction.

Although the tests showed dramatic changes in rhythm and blood substances typical of a heart attack, none of the artery blockages that typically cause one were present.

Most patients recover from the syndrome with no lasting damage but 1% of cases prove fatal.

Dr Abhishek Dehmukh of the University of Arkansas, conducted the first major study into the condition after noticing that women were the main sufferers.

Studying a database of about 1,000 hospitals, Deshukh found 6,229 cases in 2007, only 671 of which were men.

The condition was found to be 7.5 times more likely to suffer from the syndrome, once blood pressure, smoking and other factors affecting heart problems had been taken into consideration.

No conclusive evidence has been found to suggest why the condition is more common among women but one theory is that hormones play a role.

Deshmukh also suggested that men may be able to handle stress better because they have more adrenaline receptors in their hearts than women do.