Broken heart syndrome: what is it?

17 Oct, 2022
Image: BBC/Getty Images

Broken heart syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo syndrome, occurs when a person experiences sudden acute stress that can rapidly weaken the heart muscle.

Broken heart syndrome is a condition that can cause rapid and reversive heart muscle weakness, also known as stress cardiomyopathy. Two kinds of stress — emotional or physical — often cause broken heart syndrome. But while most people with this condition experience a stressful event, up to 30% of patients have no identifiable trigger at the time of their initial symptoms.

Emotional stressors include grief, fear, extreme anger and surprise. Physical stressors include high fever, stroke, seizure, difficulty breathing, significant bleeding and low blood sugar.

When you experience a stressful event, your body produces hormones and proteins such as adrenaline and noradrenaline that are meant to help cope with the stress.

The heart muscle can be overwhelmed by a massive amount of adrenaline that is suddenly produced in response to stress. Excess adrenaline can cause narrowing of the small arteries that supply the heart with blood, causing a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.

Broken heart syndrome can be life threatening. In some cases, it can cause severe heart muscle weakness resulting in congestive heart failure, low blood pressure, shock and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm abnormalities.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Image: BBC/Getty Images

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