Broken heart syndrome is a condition that was first described in 1990.
Until then, many of the symptoms were poorly understood before the moment finally arrived when it was realized that it’s a heart condition related to emotions.
It’s also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, and in 85% of cases it is triggered by an emotional event or a situation of high stress.
The reaction that the heart suffers occurs minutes or hours after the impact.
Something to remember about this heart condition is that it’s very common among women, but it’s not life threatening. Nevertheless, it may require spending a few days in intensive care.
Most patients usually recover, however.
It should be considered a “warning sign,” a response that your heart has because it’s connected to your emotions and psychological pressures of your surroundings, letting you know that something is not going well.
In today’s article we want to share three facts so you’ll know deep down what broken heart syndrome really is.
Broken heart syndrome and myocardial infarction: similarities and differences
Broken heart syndrome, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, appears abruptly and is unpredictable, with no prior warning symptoms.
The symptoms usually include:
- Severe chest pain
- Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath and breathlessness)
- Most patients come to the emergency room convinced that they are having a heart attack
- Medical test results usually show the same characteristics as those of a heart attack, both biochemical tests and an electrocardiogram.
The coronary arteries of these patients are healthy and with no anomalies, however, which is already one of the first clues to differentiate this syndrome from a heart attack.
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It’s important to keep in mind that oftentimes the ER doctors themselves find it difficult to make a correct clinical diagnosis, so the most common response is to admit the patient to intensive care for continuous monitoring.
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 usually has a small anomaly due to this disorder.
What really is broken heart syndrome?
Broken heart syndrome is cardiomyopathy that’s triggered by stress, for reasons that are not well known.
The first time the disorder was described was in Japan, and 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 reasons:
- After an emotional impact, receiving bad news, an intense disappointment, or a very high stress situation, your heart experiences a small change in the left ventricle.
- This change in the structure of the heart is due to an excessive release of catecholamines, which are similar to adrenaline except that 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…
- 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. People who suffer from more complications often have pre-existing conditions or are very advanced in age.
- The most common scenario, however, is that you spend a few days in the hospital and are fully recovered in a few weeks.
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Women and broken heart syndrome
As numerous studies on the population, gender, and broken heart syndrome have shown, this condition 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 are 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 of the need, as much as possible, to try to manage those complex situations that life throws at us when we least expect them.
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That is when your brain responds and causes this dangerous release of catecholamines that directly affect your heart. It’s important to keep this in mind.