Broken heart syndrome
Broken heart syndrome is curable and rarely fatal with only about four percent of victims dying from it.

Most people with broken heart syndrome symptoms will notice that their heart function returns to normal after a few weeks, with no negative side effects. According to recent research, however, about four percent of people with the illness die as a result of it

Broken heart syndrome, stress-induced cardiomyopathy, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy can rarely cause serious cardiac problems, such as heart failure, rhythm problems (heart beating slower or faster than usual), and even heart valve problems. According to a recent study, broken heart syndrome can potentially lead to long-term consequences, such as brain stroke and cancer.

  • According to studies, people with broken heart syndrome are far more likely to have a stroke within five years than people who have had a heart attack. Some people may develop heart failure or have a heart attack later in life.
  • Studies report that about five percent of people affected by broken heart syndrome may have a relapse of symptoms within five years.

Most people who suffer from broken heart syndrome can achieve a full recovery with proper medical diagnosis and care. Patients should have medical support for a lengthy period after the onset. Regular check-ups help determine and prevent a recurrence of the condition. 

Although broken heart syndrome can be fatal, many who survive an episode of broken heart syndrome recover quickly. According to the American Heart Association, it takes two to four weeks for a patient to fully recover from broken heart syndrome.

What is broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome occurs when the body pumps enormous amounts of stress chemicals into the circulation, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine, overloading the heart wall. The heart tenses and no longer receives adequate blood flow, rendering it paralyzed.

This disorder causes the left ventricle of the heart, the primary pumping chamber, to grow and change form (takotsubo cardiomyopathy), weakening the heart because it can no longer pump blood as efficiently as it should.

What are the signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome?

People who have broken heart syndrome frequently have the same symptoms as those who have had a heart attack.

8 common signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome include:

  1. Chest pain
  2. Tightness in the chest
  3. Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
  4. Nausea and vomiting
  5. Heart palpitations
  6. Irregular heartbeat
  7. Pain in the left arm that can be felt up to the lower jawbone
  8. Dizziness triggered by low blood pressure and sweating

How is broken heart syndrome diagnosed?

Doctors can only identify broken heart syndrome and rule out a heart attack by taking a closer look at the heart.

  • A cardiac catheter examination reveals that the coronary arteries are not hardened, which would be the case with a heart attack. As a result, blood may flow normally.
  • An ultrasound of the heart, however, will reveal a bulging left ventricle. This is due to the higher stress hormone levels, causing it to get insufficient oxygen. This causes the left ventricle to stiffen and inflate like a balloon.

QUESTION

In the U.S., 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. See Answer

What are the causes and risk factors of broken heart syndrome?

The precise etiology of shattered heart syndrome is unknown. Some people's hearts may be momentarily damaged by a rush of stress chemicals, such as adrenaline. It is unclear how these hormones could harm the heart or whether anything else is to blame.

A transient restriction of the heart's major or small arteries has been hypothesized to have a function. Broken heart syndrome is frequently preceded by a traumatic physical or emotional incident.

11 possible causes include:

  1. News of an unexpected death of a loved one
  2. A frightening medical diagnosis
  3. Trouble in relationships
  4. Domestic abuse
  5. Losing or even winning a lot of money
  6. Strong arguments
  7. Stress in job
  8. Job loss
  9. Divorce
  10. Physical stressors, such as an asthma attack, a car accident, or major surgery
  11. Some drugs, rarely, may cause broken heart syndrome by causing a surge of stress hormones in the body

6 risk factors for broken heart syndrome include:

  1. Women
  2. People older than 50 years
  3. History of neurological disorder
  4. Current or present psychiatric disorders
  5. Unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse)
  6. People with other chronic medical conditions, such as obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes

What are the treatment options for broken heart syndrome?

Because the precise mechanism of action of broken heart syndrome is unclear, there are presently no therapies available for this kind of cardiomyopathy. Patients with broken heart syndrome are typically administered medications to enhance cardiac muscle repair and control.

  • Beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors: These shields the heart from the damaging effects of stress hormones and help avoid cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Diuretic medications: Increased urine production decreases blood volume and makes the heart work more efficiently.
  • Blood-thinning medications: Recommended for people at high risk of thrombosis and heart palpitations.

How do you prevent broken heart syndrome?

Regardless of the availability of treatment options, certain actions may be performed to avoid the illness. The key coping strategy discovered by researchers is learning how to handle personal stress.

While stress management looks different for each person, studies have reported that the following strategies work best to maintain a good physical and mental lifestyle:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Exercise often
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Meditation or practice relaxation treatment regularly
  • Avoid unhealthy lifestyle and get enough sleep
  • Adopt an engaging activity
  • Establishing boundaries to prevent stress overload
  • Participate in a stress-reduction program

While the shock of losing a loved one is never easy, this condition serves as a reminder that taking care of oneself during this time is just as vital as processing grief.

What are the long-term complications of broken heart syndrome?

Previously, it was considered that the heart fully healed after developing broken heart syndrome, but studies have reported indications of long-term damage in some individuals’ heart-pumping action.

Other long-term complications of broken heart syndrome include:

  • Emotional distress
  • Parts of the heart muscle are scarred, which reduces the elasticity of the heart and prevents it from contracting properly
  • Aspects of the heart function remain abnormal for up to four months afterward, and the heart’s pumping motion is affected permanently
  • Backup of fluid into your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Disruptions in your heartbeat
  • Heart failure
  • Broken heart syndrome may recur if a person experiences another stressful event

SLIDESHOW

Heart Disease: Symptoms, Signs, and Causes See Slideshow

How is COVID-19 related to an increase in cases of broken heart syndrome?

There has been a significant rise in broken heart syndrome after the COVID-19 epidemic. Though researchers are still investigating why there has been an increase in cases, some studies show the following causes:

  • Death of a loved one or a pet
  • Loss of job
  • Increased stressful life events
  • Dealing with a loved one's critical sickness

Risk factors that have contributed to the increase in broken heart syndrome during the pandemic include:

  • Severe asthma attack
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Diabetics
  • While women are much more likely to get the condition because of both emotional and physical triggers, males are more likely to develop it as a result of physical pressures

According to numerous studies, the number of cases has tripled since the COVID-19 outbreak. The rise has been attributed to both mental and physical stress.

  • Mental stress triggers the fight-or-flight reaction, weakening the heart muscle.
  • The increased stress from living with COVID-19, the death of loved ones, social isolation, and worry for one's and others' health are contributing to a rise in stress-induced cardiomyopathy instances.
  • Patients who arrive with heartbreak syndrome are treated as if they are suffering a heart attack.
  • Patients are administered the same drugs, including beta-blockers.
  • While both cardiologists admit that there have not been any studies to confirm it, they recommend practicing stress management, seeking help from friends and family when needed, and encouraging individuals who are mourning, alone, or anxious.

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Things to know about broken heart syndrome

Anyone, regardless of health state, might suffer from broken heart syndrome.

  • Stress-induced cardiomyopathy, also called broken heart syndrome, receives its medical name from the body's intense emotional response and the effect it has on the heart.
  • Symptoms may mimic a heart attack, but a closer look at the heart may give a proper diagnosis.
  • The term broken heart syndrome is legitimate and should not be dismissed.
  • It is generally a transient disease, with patients' hearts reverting to normal within a few days or weeks.
  • However, the problem persists in about 10 percent of instances after complete recovery and 20 percent of patients have cardiac failure.
  • Approximately four percent of patients die in the hospital, and those who survive have a significantly higher risk of medical complications and mortality beyond the acute phase of the disease.
  • Broken heart syndrome is curable and rarely fatal; only about four percent of victims die.
  • In about 98 percent of instances, the heart heals and no long-term harm occurs.
  • It has a comparable survival rate to people who suffer a heart attack, with between 3 and 17 percent dying within five years after diagnosis.

Broken heart syndrome can be lethal in rare situations. However, most people who suffer from broken heart syndrome heal quickly and have no long-term consequences.

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Medically Reviewed on 5/6/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Image

American Heart Association. Is Broken Heart Syndrome Real? https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiomyopathy/what-is-cardiomyopathy-in-adults/is-broken-heart-syndrome-real#

Harvard Health Publishing. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken-heart syndrome). https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/takotsubo-cardiomyopathy-broken-heart-syndrome

AARP. Can You Die From a Broken Heart? https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2022/broken-heart-syndrome.html

Cedars-Sinai. Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/t/takotsubo-cardiomyopathy.html

Saha S. A Cardiologist Explains Broken Heart Syndrome. Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. https://mydoctor.kaiserpermanente.org/mas/news/a-cardiologist-explains-broken-heart-syndrome-1935213