In the very dramatic years of my teens, a heartbreak truly felt like the end of the world. It manifested itself physically and I could’ve sworn that my heart was ripping apart at the seams. While that obviously wasn’t true for 16-year-old me, Broken Heart Syndrome, also known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, is a very real condition.
According to St. Vincent’s Hospital, Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy is “a temporary heart condition that develops in response to an intense emotional or physical experience.” Due to the condition, the heart’s primary pumping chamber begins to change shape and loses its ability to pump blood properly.
The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are strikingly similar to those of a heart attack as you may experience shortness of breath and chest pain. The primary difference between the two is that, with broken heart syndrome, there are (usually) no blocked arteries or permanent damage and it has a quick and complete recovery.
What causes Broken Heart Syndrome?
Any instances of extreme physical and emotional stress have the capability to cause broken heart syndrome. The Cleveland Clinic did a great job of listing out a few different stressors, both physically and emotionally, that could lead to broken heart syndrome:
Sudden Emotional Stressors
- A large or meaningful loss (death, divorce, job, home, money, pet)
- Good news (surprises, large winnings)
- Bad news
- Extreme fear (public speaking, robbery, car accident)
- Intense anger
Sudden Physical Stressors
- Severe pain
- Physically exhausting event
- Health issues (asthma attack, difficulty breathing, seizure, stroke, low blood sugar, surgery, etc.)
Because the symptoms of a heart attack and broken heart syndrome are so similar, patients are monitored in the hospital until they can be properly diagnosed. The Mayo Clinic states that, after diagnosis, medications such as “angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta-blockers or diuretics” are prescribed in hopes of taking some of the stressor’s workload off of the heart. Because there are no blocked arteries and surgery is not required, the road to recovery is only about three months long.
Although heartbreak may not seem like a big deal, going through emotional and physical stress can cause damage to your most important muscle. If you feel like you are experiencing broken heart syndrome, make sure to meet with a trusted physician and have your concerns addressed.
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