Have you recently checked into the heartache hotel? The good news is that you’re not having a heart attack. It just feels that way…

The “broken heart syndrome” is acute heart failure that develops after people suffer emotional stress after bereavement. About 1% to 2% of people initially suspected of having a heart attack are found to have this syndrome.

The condition occurs mostly in older women who experience what seems to be a heart attack, but no blockage is found. Instead, the heart has a balloon-like appearance caused by lack of proper contraction of the bottom part of the heart. Most people fully recover within days or weeks.

The condition may help protect the heart from potentially lethal amounts of adrenaline that are produced in response to severe stress, according to an animal study done by researchers at the Imperial College London.

When they injected rats with adrenaline, they found that muscle contraction in the bottom of the heart was suppressed. Under conditions of high adrenaline, the body changed how the heart responded to adrenaline, from stimulating the heart to reducing its pumping power.

The study gives insights on how to treat “broken heart syndrome.” Because this study was done on rats, the findings may not apply directly to humans. Studies on humans are needed.