Broken Heart Syndrome: does it really exist?

Press release from Piedmont Healthcare

Conyers, Ga. (February 14, 2018) – Broken hearts don’t just affect those going through a recent break up. In fact, a number of men and women suffer from a condition called broken heart syndrome, according to experts at Piedmont Heart Institute in Conyers.

Originally known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, broken heart syndrome is relatively common. People with this syndrome often see their doctor for chest pain, believing they might be having a heart attack. The chest pain, however, is not caused by clogged arteries; it is the result of severe emotional stress.

“Patients come in with symptoms similar to a heart attack, but do not have the typical blocked arteries that we see with a heart attack,” Girum Mekonnen, M.D., cardiologist with Piedmont Heart of Conyers, said. “However, their hearts do ‘balloon’ out and look like a big, round ball, which is reminiscent of something the Japanese used to catch octopi, which is takotsubo, or ‘octopus pot.’”

Dr. Mekonnen says that broken heart syndrome is more common than most people realize, mostly seen in post-menopausal women, or women ages 60 and older, who often have some sort of stressful event in their life, regardless of whether it’s an emotional or physical stressor.

“There is a lot of debate about what actually causes this syndrome and we still don’t really know what causes it,” Dr. Mekonnen said. “Most people believe it is a ‘stunning’ of the heart from too much adrenaline (catecholamines) and spasm of heart arteries.”

Most people who experience broken heart syndrome make a full recovery in a matter of weeks. In rare cases, broken heart syndrome can be fatal, according to the American Heart Association.

“If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, you need to come to the hospital immediately and if your actual diagnosis is broken heart syndrome, then you have a very favorable prognosis,” Dr. Mekonnen said.

Symptoms of broken heart syndrome include chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness and an irregular heartbeat. Potential triggers include major stressors in life such as death of a loved one, an upsetting medical diagnosis, financial difficulty, a car accident or major surgery.

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