Is Broken Heart Syndrome real?

Is Broken Heart Syndrome real?

Can your emotions change the way your heart functions?

It certainly seems so. Think about how your “heart hurts” upon learning upsetting news, or if you’ve ever said your “heart feels like it’s broken” after a relationship ended.

While you can interpret these sayings as simply common expressions, research has demonstrated that the sadness and heartache you may experience emotionally actually changes the way your heart functions, if only for a brief time.

“With Broken Heart syndrome, the heart muscle becomes weak and doesn’t pump blood very well. Part of the heart also becomes temporarily enlarged,” says Dr. Marianna Krive, a cardio-oncologist at the Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress-induced cardiomyopathy are all names for Broken Heart syndrome, a temporary heart condition in which the heart weakens. It is brought on by an extremely stressful event such as the death of a loved one, divorce, strong arguments, a car accident or domestic abuse.

Those who suffer from Broken Heart syndrome often feel like they’re having a heart attack because the two conditions have the same symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in the left arm, nausea and sweating. It’s most common in women over 50, but men can also experience this condition.

“Most cases are caused by an intense emotional stressor, although sometimes, the stressor can be physical,” says Dr. Bruce Greenspahn, interventional cardiologist at the Advocate Heart Institute at Lutheran General Hospital.

While the exact cause of Broken Heart syndrome is unknown, researchers think the chemicals released during stressful periods, such as adrenaline, actually weaken the heart muscle and cause individuals to feel like they’re having a heart attack.

Because the symptoms of Broken Heart syndrome are similar to those of a conventional heart attack, Dr. Greenspahn says many come to the emergency room to be evaluated. Once there, it’s common for physicians to order an electrocardiogram. Because the electrocardiogram usually shows changes that suggest a blockage in an artery is taking place, an emergency angiogram is necessary to distinguish between Broken Heart syndrome and the most common type of heart attack, which is caused by a blocked artery.

“In particular, we are worried about a blockage of the artery on the front of the heart, which is the most dangerous kind,” says Dr. Greenspahn.

If the diagnosis is Broken Heart syndrome, patients are treated with medications that help strengthen the heart. In addition, Dr. Krive says exercise is a great antidote to stress, and she suggests individuals develop an exercise routine to help combat the stress they’re under.

“The medical regimen is identical to the drugs used to treat heart failure,” says Dr. Krive. “An ultrasound of the heart is typically repeated within four to six weeks of the initial diagnosis to confirm the recovery of heart function.”

The heart returns to normal within a few days or weeks, and Dr. Greenspahn says the prognosis is good. People almost always recover from Broken Heart syndrome, and it’s unlikely to reoccur.

If you the experience symptoms of a heart attack, it’s important to seek medical help immediately.

Concerned about your risk for a heart attack?

Advocate Lutheran and other Advocate hospitals offer a $49 heart healthy CT scan, which is a safe, non-invasive, painless screening that can help determine your risk for a heart attack. For more information on the healthy heart CT scan, click here. It could save your life.

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  1. I went through this with a family member that was a drug addict for two years. I was in such a stressful situation that I had an irregular heartbeat during this entire time. I went to a heart Dr. and wore an apparatus for two days. I was cleared of any heart issues. After reading this article, I am sure this is what I had. My family member has been clean for two years and my symptoms went away shortly after he went into recovery!

    Please do not show my name. Thank you.

  2. I don’t think Broken Heart Syndrome always goes away, if the stress and hurt that causes it persists. Divorce never stops. It always hurts. It hurts when you see your children suffer from it, every day, every year, all their lives. The loneliness never stops hurting. The additional work of raising a family alone never stops, as you must teach your sons to change a tire and fight a bully and play football, or, sometimes, a man who must teach his daughter about makeup and menstruation. Divorce just keeps on battering you. My heart is shaped funny (the doctor told me after my five way bypass) and I know why.

  3. Hello Janet: I’m sorry you are experiencing the pain of life. No one walks this way without it. Being a single parent has it’s challenges, but you must go on. I hope what I’m about to say does not offend you. I have been saying it to myself quite often for the past two years and with understanding it has help. Here goes. Nothing belongs to you, not your children, husband or other loved ones. We share our time with them for a while. They will come and they will go. They will touch our hearts in one way or another. Be it good or bad or both.what I have learned is being able to learn the lesson in the experience and accept the outcome. But always remember, nothing belongs to you, you borrow and hold it only for a while. Cherish the good times. Place them in your heart for keep sake. Take a deep breath, exhale, and let it all go. Live

  4. This is a very interesting article.

About the Author

Colette Harris
Colette Harris

Colette A. Harris, health enews contributor, is the public affairs and marketing coordinator at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Il. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and has nearly a decade of experience writing about health and wellness, which are her passions. When she’s not writing, you can find her practicing yoga, cooking, reading, or traveling.