“Broken Heart Syndrome” Might Truly Exist

We all use ‘broken heart’ when something bad happens to us. But, can we die from it? According to researchers and heart professionals, broken heart syndrome is not just a phrase, it is real. It is not just emotional distress it can cause heart problems as well.

Actually, a death of a beloved, or revealing that your partner is unfaithful may cause many heart problems and can be fatal. This syndrome can happen to anyone and is known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy or a stress-induced cardiomyopathy.

Often, it is misdiagnosed as a heart attack, and it is caused by the emotional stressor. If it is not treated, it can lead to heart muscle failure. If it is treated on time, it would not leave permanent harm.

The Reason behind Broken Heart Syndrome?

Doctor Goldberg is a cardiologist, and he says that a broken heart is a real syndrome. He says that there is at least one individual as a patient with this syndrome each week.

Usually, it is caused by some event or psychological stressor, but it has a physical impact on the heart. The precise cause is still unrevealed. Anyway, preliminary research says that it is a result of a rush of stress hormones.

In fact, a broken heart causes an abrupt rush of hormones such as adrenaline that temporarily weakens the heart. Also, the hormones cause temporary enlargement of the heart, so it cannot pump in a proper way.

So, the other parts of the heart function normally, or they pump blood with strong contractions. Likewise, the stress hormones may constrict the arteries of the heart. Dr. Goldberg says that older people may have consequences that are more serious.

Complications and Risk Factors

Even though the heart syndrome usually is short-lived, Dr. Goldberg says that it may persist. One or two patients who were diagnosed with a heart attack are suffering from broken heart syndrome.

About ninety to ninety-five percent of the patients are women, so they suffer from this syndrome more than men do. Another factor is age, most of the patients are more than 50 years old.

Women in a post-menopause deal with a broken heart the most and the reason may be the differences in the hormones. Some of the complications are a buildup of fluid in the lungs, heart failure, decreased blood pressure, as well as disruptions in the heart.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms are similar to those during a stroke or heart attack. However, the most common symptoms are shortness of breath, feelings of weakness, intense and abrupt chest pain, and irregular heartbeat.

Moreover, Dr. Goldberg says that broken heart syndrome is usually noticed in women in their 60s or 70s, who have dealt with a loss of a beloved, physical stress, emotional stress etc.

How is Broken Heart Syndrome Diagnosed?

In order to determine if the problem is broken heart, doctors will use one test or several. In the list below you can read about the tests.

  • To see if the heart is enlarged – Chest X-ray
  • History review as well as a physical exam
  • Coronary angiogram
  • Electrocardiogram or ECG in order to check the electrical impulses made by the heart
  • Cardiac MRI – detailed images of the heart
  • Echocardiogram – an ultrasound of the chest to reveal detailed images of the structure and function of the heart
  • Blood tests to find out if there is an increase in some enzymes that are related to broken heart syndrome

Luckily, patients who get a proper treatment can recover in a month or so. But, if there is no treatment, there may be some fatal complications.

How to Treat Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome does not have a specific treatment, but each patient gets a unique one. It may be similar to the treatment used for heart attack, and it can include medications to control stress hormones, relieve fluid buildup, and treat blood pressure.

When the doctor is sure that the function of the heart is normal again, they stop the medication. Some doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or recommend methods that will help with managing stress if they notice that stress causes broken heart syndrome episodes.

Usually, the treatment takes effect after a month. Since the goal of surgeries used to treat a heart attack is to unclog the arteries, they are not useful for broken heart syndrome.

Also, besides the medications, patients should lead a healthy lifestyle, therapy or counseling in order to learn how to deal with emotional stressors.

Prevent Broken Heart Syndrome

According to heart experts, a repeat episode of broken heart syndrome is not happening often. Staying away from tobacco, nutritional diet, and physical activity helps in preventing the syndrome.

It is believed that a relaxation therapy helps to prevent other problems. People who have had a broken heart syndrome should practice yoga, meditation, and tai chi. Also, you should hang out with positive people, and do physical checkups.

Furthermore, social support, genetics, coping style, and personality are factors that determine how human bodies cope with stress. While low-level stress can enhance the immune system, high levels of chronic stress can be a reason for an illness.

Fear, loss of a beloved, surprise, and extreme anger can lead to episodes of a broken heart syndrome. Nonetheless, it is good to know that the broken heart syndrome can be treated. (1)

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