What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

· October 5, 2016
Broken heart syndrome is more common in post-menopausal women, non-smokers, and those whose cholesterol, stress, and sugar levels are normal. It’s triggered by an intense emotional impact

Broken heart syndrome is a condition that was first described in 1990, but what is broken heart syndrome exactly?

Experts poorly understood many of the symptoms until recently. Now they 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.

What is broken heart syndrome?

The heart suffers a reaction which occurs minutes or hours after an emotional trauma.

Broken heart condition is especially 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.

Broken heart syndrome is a “warning sign”. It is your hearts response 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 learn everything about what broken heart syndrome really is.

Broken heart syndrome and myocardial infarction: similarities and differences

What is broken heart syndrome and its symptoms? Broken heart syndrome appears abruptly and is unpredictable, with no prior warning signs.

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 symptoms as a heart attack, both through biochemical tests and an electrocardiogram.
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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.

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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.

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 really is broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is when stress triggers cardiomyopathy, for reasons various reasons.

Experts first diagnosed the disorder in Japan. Hence, it is 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, an 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
  • 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 reading the dangers of repressed emotions

broken heart syndrome 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 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 regularly to try to manage the complex situations that life throws at us when we least expect them.
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Although it sounds easy to say and hard to apply, it’s important to keep your emotions from overwhelming you to the point that you lose control.

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That is when your brain responds negatively and causes a dangerous release of catecholamines that can directly affect your heart.

Mahajani, V., & Suratkal, V. (2016). Broken heart syndrome. Journal of Association of Physicians of India. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jradnu.2016.04.002

Virani, S. S., Khan, A. N., Mendoza, C. E., Ferreira, A. C., & de Marchena, E. (2007). Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken-heart syndrome. Texas Heart Institute Journal. https://doi.org/10.1345/aph.1M568

Javed, A., Chitkara, K., Mahmood, A., & Kainat, A. (2015). Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (Broken heart syndrome). Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. https://doi.org/10.1345/aph.1M568