It's official... a broken heart really can be the death of you.
Being dumped or losing a loved-one can raise levels of two molecules that increase the chances of developing Takotsubo syndrome, researchers found.
The sudden heart failure condition is thought to affect around 2,500 Brits each year, mainly post-menopausal women.
Its causes are not fully understood, but it is usually brought on by stress and is also known as broken heart syndrome.
Sian Harding, professor of cardiac pharmacology at Imperial College London, which carried out the research, said: “Takotsubo syndrome is a serious condition, but until now the way it occurs has remained a mystery.
“We don’t understand why some people respond in this way to a sudden emotional shock while many do not.
“This study confirms prior stress and the microRNAs associated with it can predispose a person to Takotsubo syndrome in situations of future stress.
“Stress comes in many forms and we need further research to understand chronic stress processes.”
In the future, a blood test measuring levels of the molecules – microRNAs -16 and -26a – could be developed to identifying those at risk, the researchers believe.
And Prof Metin Avkiran, from the British Heart Foundation, said the findings were a “crucial step towards better understanding of this mysterious disease”.
He added: “We now need further research to determine if drugs that block these microRNAs could be the key to avoiding broken hearts.”