5 Keys to Prevent Broken Heart Syndrome

Broken heart syndrome is classified as a sign of a heart attack. That being said, it's a temporary increase of substances that directly affect your heart.
5 Keys to Prevent Broken Heart Syndrome
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 14 September, 2022

This condition affects more people than we know. It’s important to know both know the symptoms, and know how to prevent broken heart syndrome. Let’s take a look at it.

Broken heart syndrome is a heart disease with the same signs as a heart attack. But, it has a very low death rate. Also, as a general rule, it happens more in women.

It sounds poetic, but it’s far from that. Broken heart syndrome is also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, and stress cardiomyopathy.

Whatever name you use, it usually happens after a traumatic event. This could be an extreme emotional impact or high-stress situation.

People who suffer from it believe they’re having a heart attack.

As a general rule, medical personnel follow the same protocol as they do for heart attacks. This means rapid responses. However, when they get the test results back, they see something different.

The heart is deformed. It’s a light contraction from the left ventricle that gives the heart the shape of a cone.

The first time this heart condition was discovered was in Japan. This was back in the 1990s. The shape of the heart on the images reminded the doctors of a fishing trap. This particular trap is used by Japanese fishermen to catch octopuses.

The name of the trap: takotsubo. Hence the name of the disease: takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

What is broken heart syndrome, and what are its symptoms?

Broken heart syndrome

Broken heart syndromeis a heart disease that was only identified about 2o years ago. We still know very little about this disease. But, just because it was identified a little while back doesn’t mean it didn’t exist before.
  • This is what happened before: people who had the symptoms of a heart attack were told that this was just a warning.
  • However, this changed when doctors had more diagnostic tests. They began to notice that something was different.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2015. This study explained the basics of “Broken Heart Syndrome.”

Here’s what you need to know about it.

It’s not a cardiac failure

People who suffer from this disorder can go for several days without knowing what happened to them.

  • They have the same symptoms as a heart attack. But, there’s no arterial blockage stopping blood flow.
  • Really, this is just a temporary disease. When someone endures a great emotional impact, their body responds. This response is usually to produce more hormones like, for example, adrenaline.
  • An unmeasured increase in adrenaline affects the heart. But adrenaline never affects the coronary arteries.
  • The left ventricle changes shape for a short while. It temporarily becomes cone-shaped due to this disorder.
  • What the person then feels is strong pressure, difficulty breathing, dizziness, cold sweats, and chest pain.

Like this article? We think you may also find this interesting: Stabbing Chest Pains: When to Worry

Ways we can prevent broken heart syndrome

Woman doing yoga to prevent broken heart syndrome

As we mentioned at the beginning, this disease mostly affects women.

Doctor Ilan Shor Wittstein at John Hopkins University is one of the leading experts on this disease.

  • His published research includes an article in The New England Journal of Medicine. According to his information, women who have gone through menopause have a higher risk of suffering from this disease.
  • There are two major hormones released after an emotional event: adrenaline and noradrenaline. Both of these act as a toxin in the heart. This is something that happens more often in women.

What do these catecholamine hormones do? They temporarily attack the heart. But they never attack the cells.

To avoid finding ourselves in this situation, here’s some advice.

1. After menopause, learn to manage your stress

By and large, our hormones allow us to be more resilient. This is especially true during childbearing years. During this time we have a better response to stress and anxiety. However, after menopause, things change, and we need to come up with new strategies.

No one is immune to bad news or deception.

So what we can do is “train” our mind and our body. This way whatever difficulty comes our way won’t break us. Or, at least we can face the storm better.

  • Practice yoga or mindfulness
  • Dedicate two hours a day to yourself. Spend that time walking, meditating, taking care of any small problems you may have. This can keep molehills from becoming true mountains and therefore, you’ll prevent the broken heart syndrome.

You may also want to read: 7 Kinds of Meditation and Their Benefits

2. Exercise for half an hour each day

Our goal is to make our heart muscle stronger and more resilient. To do this we don’t need to do more than just a little bit of aerobic exercise.

Try walking, dancing, swimming, or some other activity.

3. Support groups: emotional support and warmth is important

Good friends are good medicine for the heart. We need to be able to spend time with people we can be authentic with. Don’t doubt the power of a friend who can make your burden lighter.

Knowing that we’re understood, supported, and heard is vital to our health.

4. Good food, good habits

If we want to prevent broken heart syndrome, our stress is the key factor. This is especially true on an emotional level. So, we need to be able to properly manage our stress.

  • We need to focus on heart health. This can prevent issues from arising. It will also allow your heart to heal as quickly as possible if something does happen.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day. If possible, you should especially eat red, purple, and orange fruits and vegetables. They have the most antioxidants. And, antioxidants are very important for heart health.

5. Prioritize: Do periodic check-ins with yourself

Your family is very important to you, right? You worry about them every day. You even do everything possible to make them happy.

  • However, remember this: you need to take care of yourself too. If something like broken heart syndrome affects you, you might not be able to take care of them either.
  • Make sure you talk with your doctor. It’s important to schedule routine exams. Pay attention to your cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar level.

These are all indicators of our heart health. Make it a priority to change your lifestyle. Make sure you and your heart are in sync, and you’ll be able to prevent broken heart syndrome easily.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Petritsch, B., Wendel, F., Leyh, R. G., & Frantz, S. (2011). The broken heart. Circulation. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.988121
  • 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
  • Peters, M. N., George, P., & Irimpen, A. M. (2015). The broken heart syndrome: Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tcm.2014.11.005
  • Ghadri, Jelena-Rima et al. “International Expert Consensus Document on Takotsubo Syndrome (Part I): Clinical Characteristics, Diagnostic Criteria, and Pathophysiology” European heart journal vol. 39,22 (2018): 2032-2046.
  • Templin C, Ghadri JR, Diekmann J, et al. Clinical Features and Outcomes of Takotsubo (Stress) Cardiomyopathy. N Engl J Med. 2015;373(10):929-938. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1406761

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.