A broken heart is a serious problem

“You broke my heart.”

Country lyrics and classic movie lines immortalized the phrase. But it’s not just a saying.

“It actually happens,” said Sudhir Mungee, MD, interventional cardiologist at OSF HealthCare.

“The term ‘broken heart’ – though used figuratively – is literally true. “These are patients who have severe myocardial infarction because an incident has broken their heart.”

The technical term is takotsubo cardiomyopathy. But in layman’s terms, it is known as broken heart syndrome, and it can be as deadly as a heart attack.

Symptoms and causes

Takotsubo is the Japanese word for squid trap, which is what a human heart with this condition looks like. Cardiomyopathy is a weakening of the heart muscle. The left ventricle balloons, due to an intense physical or emotional trauma, and part of the heart retains its ability to contract.

Primary symptoms are the same as an acute heart attack – intense chest pain and shortness of breath. Blood tests, x-rays and electrocardiogram (ECG) results may look like a heart attack.

So the person’s history becomes important in diagnosing the disorder. Loss of a loved one, financial distress, physical violence – any kind of physical or emotional trauma experienced or witnessed – can lead to broken heart syndrome.

“When you talk to the patient about what happened, they tell you that a few weeks ago they had this loss – so much grief or shock in their lives. Then you realize that it can be different than an acute heart attack, Said Dr. Mungee.

“Typically, the person will experience trauma on day 1. From day 1 to day 5, they experience a surge of hormones. They start to get chest pain, shortness of breath. They come to the emergency room and it may look like they’re having a heart attack, but they have not. Their main blood vessels are open, but the heart muscle is weak. They have a broken heart. “

The value of peace

Most people are aware of preventive measures against an acute heart attack: Do not smoke, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and avoid stress. Some of the same steps apply to prevent broken heart syndrome.

But there is more.

“The mind can control the heart negatively,” said Dr. Mungee. “Your body is your state of mind. There is value in meditation, which in itself has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Stress increases blood pressure, but meditation reduces it. There is value in being at peace.”

When this peace is disturbed by a traumatic event – for example, the loss of a spouse or other loved one, a significant financial challenge, or being subjected to physical or verbal violence – the resulting stress can have negative effects on the heart.

Take symptoms seriously

Dr. Mungee believes that broken heart syndrome is underreported.

“A lot of people who go through this don’t get to the hospital,” said Dr. Mungee. “They think it’s just part of their emotional response to a traumatic event. They have it heavy in their heart. They are sad and feel breathless.

“Do not underestimate these symptoms,” warned Dr. Mungee. “It can get serious. If you are aware of these symptoms, it is not just because you are sad. It’s because something big is happening in your body. The mortality rate for broken heart syndrome is about 5%, which can be compared to an acute heart attack. “

Faster, complete recovery

The good news is that unlike an acute heart attack, broken heart syndrome usually does not cause permanent damage to the heart. Recovery also tends to be fast.

“We have to keep an eye on them for the first few days or so, but once they’re through the first 48 to 72 hours, they heal just as fast as they went downhill,” said Dr. Mungee. “It’s like a state of numbness or numbness in the heart muscle by receiving traumatic news. The farther you get away from the trauma, the more the heart recovers.”

Emotional support is important

Broken heart syndrome can happen to anyone. But the American College of Cardiology reports that about 90% of cases of broken heart syndrome occur in postmenopausal women. Some studies suggest that there may be a genetic component, but more research is needed.

There is also about a 5-10% recurrence rate within one to 10 years, said Dr. Mungee.

“But it’s mostly in the population that is at risk: middle-aged women who are postmenopausal, diabetic or have a history of psychiatric problems such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia. If they have COPD, emphysema or asthma, they are also predisposed. for broken heart syndrome if they were to experience intense emotional trauma.

“If you are susceptible to emotional trauma, you need appropriate family and emotional support.”

If you are at risk for broken heart syndrome, counseling can help. If you experience symptoms, consult a cardiologist. Talk to your primary care provider and ask for a referral.

Give a Comment