The broken heart syndrome causes symptoms almost identical to the ones of a heart attack, and many experts believe that it is a result of sudden, extreme stress
If you are not a romantic soul and tend to be more practical in life, you might think that many people are exaggerating after they break up with their loved ones. Yet, you might want to reconsider your opinion on this.
It turns out, a broken heart can actually be a life-threatening condition, and a serious one! Many Americans deal with the “Broken heart syndrome”, which is actually called a “stress-induced cardiomyopathy.”
Dr. Matthew Lorber, a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, explains that it is caused by “sudden extreme stress’:
“Broken heart syndrome – which is, in fact, a real thing – is when someone finds out some shocking news, typically terrible news, and there’s a massive release of these stress hormones that are released into the bloodstream, and the heart is then bombarded with these stress hormones.
This could be the news, certainly, of a loved one dying, which is where the ‘broken heart syndrome’ name comes from. This could be the news of getting a divorce.
This could be a boss coming in and telling you that you’re fired – anything that can cause intense stress. Anything that causes a shock or startles can cause broken heart syndrome.”
Yet, Lorber also warns that the news doesn’t have to be related to a negative event, like when a dad is told that he will become a father for the first time.
Stress hormones disrupt the normal function of the heart by causing a temporary weakening of the left ventricle. Broken heart syndrome can affect anybody, and a history of heart disease doesn’t make one more susceptible to it.
Yet, experts say that 90% of all sufferers are women. Moreover, women with a history of mental health problems and neurological problems and people over 50 have an increased risk.
Proper treatment can be of great help, and the initial symptoms of the syndrome are similar to the ones of a heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, nausea, dizziness, fainting, or an irregular heartbeat.
While many experts maintain that the cause of it is stress, Dr. Kevin R. Campbell, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina believes that the cause of the syndrome is still unknown, and they “don’t fully understand it.”
Dr. Campbell said that a team of Japanese researchers were the first to describe this condition in 1990, and named it “Takotsubo syndrome.”
“If you actually take a picture of the heart in the operating room, it looks dilated and balloon-like. The human heart is shaped like the Takotsubo pots Japanese use to catch octopuses.”
Nevertheless, the two conditions are not entirely the same. Patients with Takotsubo syndrome “don’t have any blockages in the heart”, and their arteries look normal. The heart is dilated and ballooned, and its function is really week.
Dr. Campbell also explained that patients recover almost spontaneously over the course of days or weeks, with no long-term consequences, and are treated with the same medicines used for heart attack.
It will remain as a bad memory for sufferers, and a rare few do die of a broken heart. Yet, Lorber reminded that “you do hear about someone not wanting to live without their loved ones.”