Broken heart syndrome, also called stress cardiomyopathy is defined as a temporary and reversible heart condition caused by a surge of stress and extreme emotions. This condition was first described in Japan, named as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Takotsubo is the Japanese name for an octopus trapping pot with a wide bottom and narrow neck. The pot resembles the shape of the distressed left ventricle of the heart seen in broken heart syndrome, so called apical ballooning. Broken heart syndrome is strongly associated with physical or emotional stress that causes a rapid weakening of heart muscle. As a result, the condition can disrupt heart’s steady rhythm and temporarily enlarge the lower part of the left ventricle, leading to more forceful contractions in other areas of the heart which potentially induces temporary heart failure.
Although the exact cause of broken heart syndrome remains unclear, risk factors often include:
Both accumulated stress and a surge of stress that suddenly happens can substantially induce the forceful constriction of the blood vessels while altering normal rhythm pattern, causing a temporary heart failure and fatal arrhythmias.
Warning manifestations of broken heart syndrome are:
To diagnose broken heart syndrome, the cardiologist usually performs a physical exam and ask questions about symptoms as well as medical history. Diagnosis involves:
Principally, given treatments are similar to those of heart attack and acute heart failure until the diagnosis is clearly made. Most patients need to be hospitalized while recovering. The severity of broken heart syndrome widely ranges from mild to fatal. In patients presenting with mild or moderate symptoms, main treatment usually involves certain medications to reduce the strain on the heart and prevent further attacks. In severe cases accompanied by acute heart failure, intubation and mechanical ventilator might be additionally required. According to international literature, the death rate is approximately 1% among broken heart syndrome patients, therefore the condition is temporary and reversible. Nevertheless, the recurrence rates range from 2% to 5%. Taking steps to efficiently manage stress as a major contributing factor can improve heart health and help preventing broken heart syndrome.
Although broken heart syndrome is a temporary and reversible heart condition, excess stress acts as a trigger factor to provoke the symptoms. The best preventive approach is to efficiently cope with physical and emotional stress to strengthen the heart’s health in the long run. As the symptoms of broken heart syndrome mimic those of heart attack, when any abnormal sign arises, immediate medical attention must be sought.