What Is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Each year around Valentine Day , newspapers run stories on “broken heart syndrome,” a condition during which people—usually postmenopausal women—experience severe, acute cardiac symptoms following an episode of utmost emotional stress.

Broken heart syndrome is understood by doctors though as “stress cardiomyopathy.” Cardiomyopathy is just the medical term for any disorder of the guts muscle.

Stress cardiomyopathy may be a recently-recognized cardiac condition that’s dramatic and severe, but that’s usually reversible and transient—if treated the proper way. And, to be clear, this sort of broken heart syndrome generally has nothing to try to to with failed romances.

“Stress cardiomyopathy” may be a far better term for this condition than the more popular term, “broken heart syndrome.“ We typically consider a broken heart as something that happens after a standard break-up, not something that happens after severe emotional distress.

Nonetheless, this terminology has resulted in many publicity, and therefore the knowledge of this syndrome consequently has been rapidly and widely disseminated—and that widespread awareness is sweet .

In stress cardiomyopathy, some of the guts muscle—often an outsized portion—suddenly ceases to function, resulting in acute coronary failure .

With aggressive medical aid , the condition is usually transient and therefore the cardiac muscle returns to normal function within a couple of days or weeks. However, if medical aid is delayed, stress cardiomyopathy could also be fatal.

Stress cardiomyopathy is triggered by extreme and sudden emotional trauma or physical stress. Reported triggers have included unexpected news of a death, domestic abuse, heist , and even a surprise party.

The condition typically manifests with symptoms suggesting an acute heart attack—think severe pressure-like pain , dyspnea, and a way of impending doom.

Nearly 90 percent of individuals who have this condition are women with a mean age of 66, but it’s not known why stress cardiomyopathy affects women disproportionately. In fact, stress cardiomyopathy may be a truly unique condition:

  • It occurs suddenly in otherwise healthy people, usually women.
  • It immediately follows an episode of severe emotional or physical stress.
  • The presenting symptoms strongly suggest a attack .
  • At first, victims are critically ill with coronary failure , but with appropriate care most frequently survive and therefore the cardiomyopathy nearly always disappears entirely.

The symptoms of stress cardiomyopathy are so sudden then severe that it’s nearly inconceivable that anyone who develops it’ll fail to hunt medical help. and therefore the physical manifestations of the condition are so obvious that no doctor who sees female patients could fail to understand that something serious goes on. So, as bad as stress cardiomyopathy is, a minimum of there’s little danger it’ll be ignored either by its victims or by medical personnel.

This stands in stark contrast to many other cardiac conditions that are much more frequent than stress cardiomyopathy. Chief among these are angina and heart attacks. These conditions are as frequent and as dangerous in women as in men, but they often present with “atypical” symptoms.

The explanation for stress cardiomyopathy is unknown, but most experts blame it on an unusual response to worry hormones, like adrenaline, after emotional trauma.

The condition could also be associated with microvascular angina also , which is caused by constriction of microvessels (tiny blood vessels) within the guts muscle. Others have postulated that this condition could also be associated with arteria coronaria spasm.

When first evaluated, people that have stress cardiomyopathy are initially thought to be having massive heart attacks. However, the changes on their ECGs aren’t typical for a attack and therefore the cardiac enzyme tests that are alleged to confirm a attack are found to not be significantly elevated.

Furthermore, when taken to the catheterization laboratory, their coronary arteries are found to be open. In true heart attacks, one among the coronary arteries would are occluded.

Finally, many of us with stress cardiomyopathy are found to possess a peculiar sort of cardiac muscle weakness (cardiomyopathy) on echocardiography, where some of their ventricle “balloons” outward in an unusual and distinctive fashion. In Japan, where this condition was first described, the distinctive ballooning of the ventricle is claimed to resemble an octopus trap, or “takotsubo,” therefore the condition is named takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Many people with stress cardiomyopathy initially have severe coronary failure and need aggressive and intensive cardiac care. Fortunately, with aggressive medical aid , not only do they survive, but their cardiomyopathy usually completely resolves within a couple of days to weeks.

You should always consult your doctor to seek out the simplest treatment approach. to assist have that conversation, use our Doctor Discussion Guide below

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