Broken Heart
In this photo, a Jewish settler cries in Gaza Strip, Aug. 9, 2005. Getty Images/ Uriel Sinai

If you have recently gone through a breakup or lost someone very close to your heart, you might become a victim to the broken heart syndrome — a term that describes an actual illness and not just something that a protagonist of a Jane Austin novel goes through.

Around 0.02 percent of people get admitted to hospitals in the United States after suffering broken heart syndrome — also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy (TTC) — without realizing that what they are experiencing was in fact not a heart attack.

"When you see this disease, takotsubo cardiomyopathy or the broken heart syndrome, there's an exorbitant amount of stress and all of those stress hormones you feel in your head get released into your body and it almost causes your heart to be stunned, these hormones in this stunned moment look like a heart attack,” Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist, told Fox News.

The symptoms of a Broken Heart Syndrome — which is triggered by grief, fear, extreme anger, and surprise — include chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, weakness and palpitations (intense pounding of the heart), according to Hopkins Medicine. In extreme cases, people can also suffer seizures, strokes and significant bleeding.

The main difference between a heart attack and broken heart syndrome is the fact that while the former is caused by one or more blockage in the arteries of the heart, the latter is simply caused by temporary reduction in blood flow in the passageways of the heart. Hence, it is less severe than a heart attack.

So is Broken Heart Syndrome not lethal? Dr. Jonathan Fialkow, a cardiologist and assistant professor at FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM), told Medical Xpress that people can die of TTC but “fortunately, death is very rare.”

It does not mean people are not known to die of acute heartache. As an example, Dr. Eugenio Rothe, HWCOM professor of psychiatry, cited the death of former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie’s parents, who passed away within an hour of each other. Although the cause of death was ruled as heart attack, it could be due to TTC, he said.

Similarly, actress Debbie Reynolds died a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed away in December 2016. Many deduced at the time that she had died of a broken heart and they might have been right. The exact cause that leads one to suffer from this illness is not clear.

"It's not exactly known what the cause is, but clearly adrenaline and other hormones associated with stress are factors," Fialkow says.

Women going through menopause are more susceptible to TTC, due to reduced levels of estrogen in their bodies. According to a 2010 clinical survey, more than 90 percent of the people suffering from broken heart syndrome were women aged between 58 and 75.

“When we’re post-menopausal we don’t have all the protective mechanisms we have when were younger to really protect our heart,” Steinbaum explained.