Is broken heart syndrome real?

September 15, 2019 Providence Heart & Vascular Team

We’ve all heard of having a broken heart, but did you know it’s a real medical condition?

[3 MIN READ]

Whether it’s a breakup, the loss of a loved one or a traumatic event, many of us have experienced a broken heart at some point in our lives. But a broken heart can be more than an emotion or feeling — it can also be a serious medical condition.

Broken heart syndrome is a sudden cardiac event that has similar symptoms to a heart attack, including intense chest pain. It’s caused by a sudden rush of hormones, which can be brought on by an extremely stressful event.

This condition is also sometimes called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Fortunately, most people who experience broken heart syndrome can be treated and make a full recovery a few weeks after the event.

What happens when someone has broken heart syndrome?

When you experience broken heart syndrome, part of your heart enlarges temporarily and doesn’t pump blood correctly. Meanwhile, the rest of your heart pumps blood normally or uses stronger contractions to make up for the part of the heart that isn’t working properly.

What causes broken heart syndrome?

In most cases, broken heart syndrome is prompted by an extremely stressful event, which can cause a surge of stress hormones. Researchers are still looking into exactly how these hormones cause heart problems.

In most cases, broken heart syndrome is prompted by an extremely stressful event, which can cause a surge of stress hormones. 

Stressful events that can prompt broken heart syndrome may include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Serious medical diagnosis
  • Major surgery
  • Car accident
  • Job loss
  • Domestic abuse

In some cases, the rush of stress hormones can be caused by certain medicines that treat:

  • Allergic reactions, such as epinephrine (EpiPen)
  • Depression, such as duloxetine (Cymbalta) or venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • Thyroid problems, such as levothyroxine (Synthroid or Levoxyl)

What are the symptoms of broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome symptoms are similar to a heart attack. They usually include:

  • Sudden, intense chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)

If you are having any of the above symptoms, call  911 immediately. Although it can be difficult to decipher a broken heart from a heart attack, it is best to get to a hospital and see a doctor quickly — he or she will be able to determine the exact cause your symptoms and prescribe the right treatment.

The biggest difference between broken heart syndrome and a heart attack is that broken heart syndrome symptoms happen right after an extremely emotional event.

The biggest difference between broken heart syndrome and a heart attack is that broken heart syndrome symptoms happen right after an extremely emotional event. Tests results also look different — when someone has broken heart syndrome, tests usually show no signs of heart damage or blockages in the arteries.

How is broken heart syndrome treated?

It is important to receive an accurate diagnosis from your doctor before treatment can be determined. If you suspect that you may have symptoms of broken heart syndrome, your doctor can order any necessary tests and discuss a management program with you.

Does broken heart syndrome cause any serious side effects?

Most people recover from broken heart syndrome within a few weeks and don’t have any lasting side effects. However, in rare cases, broken heart syndrome may cause complications like heart failure, irregular heartbeats or even death.

Recent research has also shown that there may be a link between broken heart syndrome and cancer. The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed that one in six people with broken heart syndrome also had cancer. The research also indicated that cancer patients with broken heart syndrome were more likely to die within five years of being diagnosed with the syndrome.

Whether you are reeling from an intense breakup or experiencing an extreme emotional event, keep in mind the warning signs of broken heart syndrome. 

So, whether you are reeling from an intense breakup or experiencing an extreme emotional event, keep in mind the warning signs of broken heart syndrome. While it may not be as serious as a heart attack, it is still important that you seek treatment as soon as possible so it doesn’t lead to further complications.

If you want more information about the syndrome and how to keep your heart healthy, be sure to talk with your doctor. You can find a Providence doctor using our provider directory. Or, you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.

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Share your #heart #health story with us @psjh. #hearthealth

Resources:

Is it stress, anxiety or panic?

Your heart: How to protect it from stress

Guide your heart: How to prevent, survive and recover from a heart attack

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

 

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