The Broken Heart Syndrome

A Broken Heart

When someone says he might die from a broken heart, our usual reaction would be to scoff and wave it off. Usually, we'd be right to distract our broken-hearted friend from thinking about his lost love. Unfortunately, not every broken-hearted person in the world can be cured by a trip to the bar.

According to the American Heart Association, there is such a thing called the Broken Heart Syndrome, also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Stress Will Break Your Heart

Ilan Wittstein, MD, a Johns Hopkins University cardiologist stated that the reason it's called "Broken Heart Syndrome" is that most of the people who suffered from this were grieving. It seemed that most people often thought they were experiencing a heart attack.

Events where you're grieving the loss of a loved one, a traumatic incident, or, in one instance, even a shock or surprise, can trigger our sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight mode). This is when we feel very stressed, as if we can't breathe and our heart hurts. This is also when adrenaline rushes and our heart is pumping blood erratically.

Have you experienced the Broken Heart Syndrome before?

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  • I know of someone who had.
  • I did, but it wasn't medical.
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Symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome

BHS, according to many doctors, is often mistaken as a heart attack. So, what are the symptoms of a Broken Heart Syndrome?

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating Profusely
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitation
  • Vomitting
  • Weakness

What makes it different from a heart attack then? A heart attack kills the heart cells, but a stress-induced cardiomyopathy only stuns the heart cells. Usually, the "stunning" will dissipate after a few minutes and will be gone in a week.

Who are at risk?

Majority of those who suffer stress-induced cardiomyopathy are women aged late 50's to early 60's. Many people have said that women are more emotional than men. It's true, to a fault, mainly because of the estrogen or hormones.

Although there are other patients who are younger women and men, the theory is that the estrogen level of post-menopausal women drop. This lowers the protection around their heart.

Other people, like those with a history of depression, are also at risk of getting a broken heart.

How will it be treated?

Since BHS has heart attack signs, patients can be treated using the same methods. According to the John Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute, patients of stress-induced cardiomyopathy may be treated with:

  • medication for removal of fluids in the lungs
  • medication for improvement of blood pressure
  • blood thinners to prevent blood clots and stroke

The very sick ones will have to be put on a ventilator or an intra-aortic balloon pump.

After the medical treatment, patients have to eat right and try to reduce the stress around them.

Don't break my heart...

Since a Broken Heart Syndrome is really caused by stress, we should all take note to relax once in a while. It's a hustle and bustle world right now, but our heart pumps our blood and it must not fail.

To read more about preventing heart diseases (like an actual heart attack!), here's The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up: A Breakthrough Medical Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Steven Masley.

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