What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is a cardiomyopathy caused by emotional shocks and stress. It's a health problem that's still not well-known.
What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Last update: 01 June, 2021

Broken heart syndrome is a condition that was first described in 1990. Until that time, many of its symptoms were not fully understood. Since then, experts have understood that it’s a heart disease that’s related to emotions.

It’s also known as Takotsubo syndrome and in 85% of cases, it’s triggered by an emotional event or a situation of high stress. The changes that the heart undergoes after this impact are manifested minutes or hours later.

This cardiac ailment is more common among women, but it’s not fatal. It does, however, involve spending a few days in intensive care. In most cases, patients recover.

However, one of these episodes is still a “warning” that some emotions aren’t being managed properly. Here are three facts to help you understand the course of broken heart syndrome.

Broken heart syndrome and myocardial infarction: Similarities and differences

Broken heart syndrome, or Takotsubo, is a cardiomyopathy that appears abruptly and unpredictably, without previous cardiac problems. Symptoms usually include the following:

Most patients come to the emergency room convinced that they are having a heart attack. Medical test results usually show the same symptoms as a heart attack, both through biochemical tests and an electrocardiogram.

A doctor reading an electrocardiogram.

The coronary arteries of these patients are healthy and show no anomalies. This is already one of the first clues that differentiate this syndrome from a heart attack.

It’s important to keep in mind that even the ER doctors themselves often find it difficult to make a correct clinical diagnosis. Therefore, the most common response is to admit the patient to intensive care for continuous monitoring of their vital signs.

Cardiologists, on the other hand, say that a definitive way to diagnose broken heart syndrome is through an X-ray image. This is because the left ventricle shows a small anomaly during broken heart syndrome.

What exactly is broken heart syndrome?

Experts first diagnosed the disorder in Japan. Hence, it’s named after a type of fishing equipment: The Tako-Tsubo, which is curved with a narrow neck.

The heart of a patient suffering from this disorder temporarily has a similar shape. The cause of this phenomenon in the body may be in response to the following:

  • After an emotional impact, receiving bad news, intense disappointment, or a very high-stress situation, your heart experiences a small change in the left ventricle.
  • The heart changes its structure in response to an excessive release of catecholamines, which are similar to adrenaline. At high doses, they have a “toxic” effect on the heart.
  • You suffer from heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, increased blood pressure, etc. All of these biochemical impacts cause the heart muscle to change, but the change in the left ventricle is temporary.

Mortality is very low, at only five percent. Sufferers often have pre-existing conditions or are elderly. The most common scenario, however, is that you spend a few days in the hospital and fully recover in a few weeks.

We recommend also reading: The dangers of repressed emotions

Women and broken heart syndrome

As numerous studies on broken heart syndrome have shown, broken heart syndrome is more common among women aged 50 to 65.

The incidence rates in men rarely exceed 10%. That’s why it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • According to the Spanish Heart Foundation, women are at higher risk of broken heart syndrome when they’re post-menopausal non-smokers with normal levels of cholesterol, stress, and sugar.
  • Most commonly they are women who lead active lifestyles and suddenly experience an intense emotional impact: the death of a family member, diagnosis of a serious illness, an emotional problem, a high level of family stress…
  • Doctors remind us regularly to try to manage complex situations properly.

Conclusion

Broken heart syndrome is a condition that arises from the inadequate management of emotions. Although this can be easier said than done, it’s necessary in order to prevent emotions from getting out of control.

If this happens, the brain reacts and triggers that dangerous release of catecholamines that directly affect the heart. It’s important to keep this in mind and strengthen your self-control.

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In today’s article we invite you to learn more about broken heart syndrome, both for your health and peace-of-mind reasons.