Time may heal wounds for some, but for others, the damage is permanent, and it's physical. So say researchers at the University of Aberdeen after examining MRI scans of the hearts of patients with takotsubo syndrome, otherwise known as broken-heart syndrome. The syndrome, which nine out of 10 times is found in women and seven times out of 10 times is directly linked to an emotional stressor, like the death of a loved one, happens when the heart is literally stunned, per Bustle. This causes a change in the heart's pumping and squeezing motions and results in tiny scarring that makes the organ more stiff and not able to contract properly, reports the BBC. Symptoms are similar to cardiac arrest.
For the latest study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography, researchers found that in the 52 participants with the syndrome whose hearts they examined, the damage was not as temporary as previously thought. "This disease has much longer lasting damaging effects on the hearts of those who suffer from it," the lead researcher says. In some patients, these heart abnormalities last at least four months after the trigger, suggesting that there isn't always full recovery, or that it might be much slower than previously thought. The condition was first described in 1991 in Japan, reports the Guardian, and 3% to 17% of patients die within five years of being diagnosed. That's a similar survival rate to heart attack victims. (In 4% of cases, happiness actually triggers takotsubo syndrome.)