Remember Whitney Houston’s famous song? “Where do broken hearts go? Can they find their way home?” It’s been a staple song of anyone who has loved, lost, and become heartbroken. Have you ever been heartbroken for whatever reason- the loss of a loved one or maybe the grief over an ended relationship with your (ex) partner? It’s an unexplainable sadness and overwhelming feelings of hurt and loss that washes over us like someone’s poured all those melancholy into our entire beings. Admit it- you’ve been heartbroken, and the fact that it stings and hurts like hell is true.
But did you know that there is an actual heart disease that’s meant to give a literal meaning to the words “broken heart”? It’s real, and it can happen to anybody, even to completely healthy individuals. Nursing a broken heart for too long? Probably a bad idea! Well then, maybe some broken hearts go to hospitals to get it mended, literally.
The Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy
Sounds a bit foreign and rare, but the truth is that we are all at risk for this. Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, also known as Stress-Induced Cardiomyopathy or, more popularly, the “Broken Heart Syndrome”, is a temporary heart condition that greatly mimick the symptoms of a real heart attack or myocardial ischemia. Patients usually experience a sudden intense chest pain in conjunction to an emotionally stressful event. It’s a reaction to a jolt of stress hormones, and may happen after events such as a break-up, death of a family member, chronic anxiety or even happy events such as winning a sweepstakes. It is more common in women and even individuals without risk factors for heart diseases.
What Happens To Someone With This Disease?
Following a stressful event, changes in a person’s heart rhythm and rate occurs. The patient experiences tachycardia (elevated heart rate), shortness of breath and chest pains- very much similar to a real heart attack. The heart is a muscle, and when you experience Broken Heart Syndrome, a part of the heart weakens temporarily or bulges out, similar to an octopus pot (hence the term Takotsubo).
Heart Attack Vs. Broken Heart Syndrome
It’s hard to differentiate from a heart attack and broken heart syndrome because they present almost the same, even on ECG tracings. One factor is prevalent though- there is no visible evidence of blocked blood vessels in an episode of broken heart syndrome, unlike in a heart attack (these blocked vessels become the main cause of heart attack). To further diagnose, physicians usually order ECGs, 2D echo, coronary angiography and blood tests.
How To Deal?
If you experience shortness of breath and chest pains, seek immediate medical attention. Better safe than sorry- it’s better to be diagnosed properly as to not being seen by a healthcare provider at all. Usually, broken heart syndrome may lead to long-term weakening of the heart muscles, but the recovery rate is high and patients fully recuperate within a month or so. Treatment focuses on alleviation of the symptoms experienced during the illness course, and no other drug is given for maintenance as in the case of other cardiac diseases.
Prevent This Syndrome!
Effective stress management is the key to prevention of broken heart syndrome. Boost up your happy hormones and surround yourself with positivity whenever you sense a melancholic breakdown happen. Learning how to control your emotions may mean a lot to your heart health.
So the next time you feel really sad, down and out, mind your heart and take action to prevent it from literally getting broken. Remember- it’s not always a good idea to get a doctor to literally fix a broken heart- so stay stress-free and happy, everyone!