Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding why some people die from a broken heart.

Heart Model

Heart Model

New research has found that suffering long-term stress before experiencing a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, could trigger broken heart syndrome - which is medically known as Takotsubo syndrome.

The condition was first identified in Japan during the 1990s and is characterised by the weakening of the heart's main pumping chamber but the new study has found that two molecules, microRNAs -16 and -26a, are linked to increased stress levels and play a key role in causing the condition.

Sian Harding, professor of cardiac pharmacology at Imperial College London, who conducted the study, 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."