Causes And Treatment Of Broken Heart Syndrome
Yes, broken heart syndrome (also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy or stress induced cardiomyopathy) is a real heart condition. Broken heart syndrome is a temporary and reversible heart condition whose symptoms mimic those of a heart attack. Unlike heart attacks, broken heart syndrome occurs when sudden emotional or physical stress causes a weakening of the heart muscle.
Risk Factors For Broken Heart Syndrome
Broken heart syndrome usually affects women more so than men, as well as people over the age of 50. Another factor that may increase your risk of developing broken heart syndrome is whether you’ve been diagnosed with a current or previous mental health disorder, such as anxiety and depression.
Causes Of Broken Heart Syndrome
Broken heart syndrome is brought on by physical or emotional stress. Physical stressors that may cause this condition include severe pain, exhausting physical activity, and a variety of health issues such as asthma attacks, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), seizure, stroke, high fever, low blood sugar, intense blood loss, or surgery.
Emotional stressors that may cause broken heart syndrome include intense good news (surprise party or winning the lottery), intense bad news, grief from the death of a loved one or other meaningful loss (divorce, loss of home, loss of job, loss of money, loss of pet, etc.), intense fear, and extreme anger.
This condition is thought to be brought on by a sudden surge of stress hormones such as adrenaline, epinephrine, noradrenaline, and norepinephrine, which might temporarily cause a decrease in heart health. These hormones interfere with your heart’s ability to function properly by disrupting your heart’s normal rhythm, temporarily enlarging part of your heart (the lower portion of the left ventricle), and creating more forceful contractions in other areas of your heart. These changes lead to temporary heart failure.
In rare cases, use of certain drugs may lead to the development of broken heart syndrome, such as emergency medications used to treat severe allergic reactions or asthma attacks, anxiety medications, nasal decongestants, or illegal stimulants such as methamphetamine or cocaine.
Symptoms Of Broken Heart Syndrome
With broken heart syndrome, the release of stress hormones temporarily stuns your heart muscle and produces symptoms that are similar to the experience of a heart attack. These symptoms include sudden and severe chest pain, shortness of breath, weakening of the left ventricle of your heart, fluid in your lungs, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias), and low blood pressure.
Complications Of Broken Heart Syndrome
Although complications arising from this condition are rare, they can sometimes occur. Possible complications due to broken heart syndrome include a rupture in the left ventricle of the heart, blockage of blood flow from the left ventricle, blood clots in the wall of the left ventricle, left ventricular outflow tract obstruction, cardiogenic shock, complete atrioventricular block, congestive heart failure, and even death.
Prevention Of Broken Heart Syndrome
While there are no known treatment options for the prevention of this condition, stress management and relaxation techniques can help to reduce the physical and emotional stress that can lead to the development of broken heart syndrome. These methods include relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, journaling, or taking a warm bath. Stress management techniques include eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical exercise, getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night, reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption, and keeping up with medical appointments.
Testing For Broken Heart Syndrome
To determine whether you are experiencing broken heart syndrome, your doctor will first conduct a physical examination and review your medical history. After this, a series of tests will be ordered, including an electrocardiogram (EKG), coronary angiography, echocardiogram, chest X-ray, cardiac MRI, and a ventriculogram. These tests will help rule out any other possible causes of your symptoms and properly diagnose your condition.
Treatment For Broken Heart Syndrome
Treatment for this condition depends on the severity of the symptoms. Typically, your doctor will prescribe medications for either short term or long term use. Long term medications include ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure and anti-anxiety medications to manage stress. Short term medications include beta blockers to slow your heart rate and diuretics to decrease fluid buildup.
Depending on the extent to which your heart muscle was weakened, your doctor may also recommend cardiac rehabilitation, a program which strengthens your heart muscle by helping you receive regular physical activity, along with education about healthy lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and switching to a healthy diet. The program also offers counseling to relieve stress and improve mental health.