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Can you actually die of a broken heart? Kate Spade's father, Debbie Reynolds and four others who succumbed to heartbreak

Broken Heart Syndrome is real and here are the list of celebrities who have died of a broken heart including Kate Spade's father, who died a day before Kate's funeral
Debbie Reynolds (Getty Images)
Debbie Reynolds (Getty Images)

Just a day before the funeral of designer Kate Spade, her father, Earl Frank Brosnahan Jr., passed away at the age of 89. His family released a statement on Thursday morning saying that he "had been in failing health of late and was heartbroken over the recent death of his beloved daughter." Earl was said to have shared a close bond with his daughter, Kate, and he was always fond of her. In fact, just the day before Kate committed suicide by hanging, Earl had talked to her on the phone and in an interview, he had said that his 55-year-old daughter was happy and was planning to visit colleges in California. Earl's death, just 24 hours before his dearest daughter's funeral has made us question if we can actually die of a broken heart.

 Kate Spade and Andy Spade attend the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Annual Downtown Dinner at Cipriani 55 Wall Street May 4, 2006 in New York. (Photo Donald Bowers/Getty for Company Agenda)

Heartbreaks aren't an easy experience for anyone at any age and it turns out that heartbreak is a medical condition and is known as a Broken Heart Syndrome. The condition also called 'Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy' was first noticed in Japan in 1990 when Dr. Hikaru Sato described a stress-induced cardiomyopathy or apical ballooning syndrome following a traumatic emotional heartbreak be it of death or a breakup.

The European Society of Cardiology has elaborated on Sato's first case in 1991 and how the cases multiplied in the next decade. The Western literature described the syndrome in 1997 when Pavin et al wrote about two cases of ‘reversible LV dysfunction precipitated by acute emotional stress.’ The Japanese reported the syndrome to the world in 2001 under the name ‘transient LV apical ballooning’. By then there had been numerous cases reported.

This explains the reason why the Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds died just a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed away from a heart attack. The cause of Debbie Reynold's death was not immediately identified but her last words to her son, Todd Fisher, were; “I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie."

Reynold's and Fisher also enjoyed a close bond after being estranged for around a decade and reconciling when Fisher was in her 30s. They ended up becoming next door neighbors and had just completed working on a documentary about their relationship.

The Brokenheart Syndrome has been defined by the British Heart Foundation as: "A temporary condition where your heart muscle becomes suddenly weakened or stunned. The left ventricle, one of the heart's chambers, changes shape." Another research published in the journal of JAMA Internal Medicine states that, while the condition happened rarely, the number of people who had a heart attack or a stroke in the month after a loved-one died was double that of a matched control group who were not grieving.

Maybe, this is the reason why death by heartbreak isn't uncommon in the world and in Hollywood and even among famous celebrities.

Actress Mary Tamm's husband Marcus Ringrose passed away just 12 days after the death of the 'Doctor Who' actress in 2012. Tamm who iconically played Romana in the classic sci-fi show died after a lengthy battle with cancer. Her husband, who was an insurance executive, collapsed just hours after delivering a heart-wrenching eulogy at his wife’s funeral. His post-mortem report found no reason why he would suddenly collapse and died. Chances of heart attack were dismissed and the doctors cited that he died from a rare condition in which the heart stops beating for no reason.

Speaking after Ringrose’s death, Tamm’s agent said: “He adored her. If you can die of a broken heart, then that's what he died of – his heart just gave out."

In 2003, when June Cash died of heart surgery complications her famous husband Johnny Cash was devastated. The love between the pioneer of outlaw country and singer June was not unknown to the world when three decades before the death, Johnny had literally begged June to marry him live on stage. So when she died of complications following a heart surgery, Johnny died four months later when he was in the hospital for his diabetes treatment. Shortly, after a month, June's daughter from a previous marriage, Rosie Nix Adams, also died from what was said, a carbon monoxide poisoning.

 Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash of the Carter Family group pictured in 1968 at London Airport in London (Getty Images)

Another couple dying out of a heartbreak is the former British Prime Minister James Callaghan. Just 11 days after his wife, Audrey Callaghan died of heart and kidney failure in March 2005, James passed away a day before his 93rd birthday. His former Labour cabinet colleague Lord Hattersley said after his death: “It was not a major surprise - I knew what a blow the death of his wife Audrey was a few days ago.”

Confirming that you can indeed die of a broken heart was a former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie, who announced that both of his parents suffered fatal heart attacks in one day within minutes, in 2015. Flutie’s father was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack and eventually succumbed to the condition. An hour later, his mother, devastated from the loss, also suffered a heart attack and died. "They say you can die of a broken heart and I believe it," he wrote in a long Facebook post.

We have heard stories about lovers passing away within intervals and the very fact that broken heart is a literal condition only makes us question even more, if the fragile human heart really shatters to pieces without any sound and if there can be any remedy for the broken-hearted.