What is broken heart syndrome and how does it happen
Did you know heartbreak is quite a literal condition? We might often feel melancholic from a disappointment in life and say, "it was a heart-wrenching experience," or "it broke my heart," but we usually mean it figuratively and not literally. Turns out, the word has some literal sense to it as well. Broken heart syndrome is a heart condition.
Here is what our expert says
Broken heart syndrome is also called "Takotsubo cardiomyopathy." It is a reversible condition of the muscles of the heart, in which the muscles of the left ventricle do not move normally and instead balloon out leading to reduced cardiac output. It has symptoms and findings resembling that of a heart attack. There is no blockage of the coronary arteries, unlike in a heart attack.
Broken heart syndrome weakens the heart muscles
Broken heart syndrome is a temporary and reversible heart condition. The symptoms are similar to a heart attack. However, broken heart syndrome happens due to a sudden physical or emotional stress that quickly weakens the heart muscle. It's believed that a spike of stress hormones might temporarily damage the hearts of some people. But how they hurt the heart isn't completely known yet.
What causes this condition?
The exact causes of broken heart syndrome are yet not known. A brief constriction of the arteries in the heart may be responsible. Broken heart syndrome often follows an intense event, be it physical or emotional. An illness or major surgery or anything that causes a strong emotional response may trigger this condition. Certain medicines and illegal drugs can also trigger this condition.
How to differentiate it from a heart attack?
Unlike heart attacks, the arteries are not blocked, but the blood flow to the heart may be reduced in broken heart syndrome. The heart muscle is not permanently damaged as in the case of heart attacks. Death by broken heart syndrome is rare; only about 1% with this condition have died. Broken heart syndrome is mostly a temporary condition followed by a full recovery.
Who is most at risk?
Broken heart syndrome is more common in women. Estrogen protects the heart against bad effects of stress hormones, but as the estrogen level declines with age, women might be more prone to the effects of stress. Most people with broken heart syndrome are over 50 years old. Those with mental health disorders like anxiety, or depression have a higher risk of developing this condition.Share this timeline