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Yes, There Really Such Thing As Broken Heart Syndrome

Really? It's a thing?

Most, if not all, of us knows what it feels like to have our hearts broken. But did you know there is actually a cardiac condition called "broken heart syndrome"? It's a temporary condition, often caused by an extreme emotional or highly stressful event. Fortunately, broken heart syndrome, also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, usually self corrects in a few days or weeks.

Possible causes

Although the cause is unclear, it may be related to surges of hormones like adrenaline, that temporarily damage the heart. It's not clear why some people experience this phenomenon and other don't. There could be differences in the heart structure of those who experience this phenomenon. Following is a list of some possible reasons for this syndrome:

  • death of someone close
  • devastating medical diagnosis
  • domestic abuse
  • sudden and profound change in financial situation
  • emotional fight
  • unexpected surprise
  • public speaking
  • significant loss like a job or divorce
  • physical trauma

There may be some drugs that could cause it by causing a surge of stress hormones:

  • epinephrine
  • duloxetine
  • venlafaxine
  • levothyroxine
  • methamphetamine and cocaine

Broken heart syndrome is not a heart attack

There are similarities between heart attack and broken heart syndrome but they are not the same. Blocked arteries are often the cause of a heart attack. The blockage is often because of a blood clot that forms at a plaque site causing an interruption of blood flow.  Broken heart syndrome is not caused by a blockage. However, blood flow may be temporarily restricted during the event.

Risk factors

There are some risk factors associated with broken heart syndrome:

  • being female - it happens far more often to women than men
  • age - usually happens to people over 50
  • neurological condition - prior head trauma or seizure disorder can increase risk
  • psychiatric disorder - those with anxiety or depression are at higher risk

Broken heart syndrome usually does not recur, although it can. Drugs such as beta-blockers are used to mitigate the damage of stress hormones and are often prescribed for life after such an event.

Stress management is good for anyone trying to live a heart healthy lifestyle and preventing broken heart syndrome is another good reason for it.

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