When cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp meets her patients for the first time, they often assume she's the nurse. That’s why she’s making it her mission to challenge gender stereotypes and highlight diversity in a field traditionally dominated by men. Through her role as an ambassador for the global campaign, #ILookLikeASurgeon, she’s been instrumental in creating more positive role models for young women in medicine. But if that wasn’t achievement enough, she’s also released the bestselling book ‘Can You Die From A Broken Heart?’ That’s why we hit her up to answer the question and put an end to the debate once and for all.
“All of our emotions connect to our body by setting off cascades of hormones like cortisol or adrenaline and this places quite a lot of stress on our hearts,” she tells Women’s Health. “Plus, we also see a process of inflammation, which is the body’s way trying to fight off disease. In a stressful situation - or if this happens chronically - this can be quite damaging.”
In some instances, this exposure to stress can result in a heart attack and can even be fatal.
“For example, with elderly couples who pass away within days or weeks of each other, it is possible that the stress response triggered by the death of their loved one has aggravated any disease or health issues they already had,” she explains.
This condition has a name: Takotsubo syndrome (aka, broken heart syndrome,) but fortunately, it’s extremely rare.
“We’re all going to be heartbroken at some time in our lives, but for the vast majority of us this won’t cause us to have a true physical broken heart or even die of a broken heart during that period,” Nikki explains.
That said, those who suffer from Takotsubo are often women – who are otherwise fit and healthy. “For some reason - which we don’t quite know the explanation for yet - their hearts are much more susceptible to the ill effects of stress,” Nikki adds.