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.
Originally known as takosubo cardiomyopathy, broken heart syndrome is relatively common. People with this syndrome often see their doctor for chest pains, believing they might be having a heart attack. The chest pains, however, are not caused by clogged arteries; they are 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,” said Kenneth Taylor, M.D., Piedmont Heart. “However, their hearts did ‘balloon’ out and look like a big, round ball, which is reminiscent of something the Japanese used to catch octopi, which is takosubo, or ‘octopus pot.’”
Dr. Taylor 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,” said Dr. Taylor. “Most people believe it is a ‘stunning’ of the heart from too much adrenaline.”
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,” said Dr. Taylor.
Symptoms of broken heart syndrome include chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness and an irregular heartbeat. Potential triggers include abuse, death of a loved one, an upsetting medical diagnosis, financial difficulty, a surprise party, public speaking, a car accident, major surgery or an asthma attack.
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