Broken heart syndrome exists and you need to know

6 minutes to read

Have you ever had your heart broken? Most likely yes. After all, this type of feeling is experienced by all of us, regardless of whether we are talking about a romantic or family relationship, between friends, etc. One thing is for sure: someone is going to let us down at some point in our lives.

However, there is an old saying that “no one dies of a broken heart”. Is this really true? What if we told you that there is a cardiac syndrome that bears that name?

Although deaths are very rare from this problem, it is important to talk about broken heart syndrome, a disease that affects the heart muscle and causes symptoms similar to those of a heart attack. Continue reading and learn more.

What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is a problem that affects the heart muscle, more specifically in the left ventricle region.

Our heart is an organ with four chambers, two atria and two ventricles. The atria are responsible for receiving the blood that comes from the body, while the ventricles send the blood flow to our tissues. That is: problems in this area can be very serious.

Now, think that the heart is a big muscle, which works 24 hours a day, without rest. Broken heart syndrome happens as a kind of cramp, which causes the ventricle to change its conformation and stop pumping blood correctly.

What is the “real” name of this condition?

This condition does not have “broken heart syndrome” as its “technical” name. It is actually called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or stress-induced heart disease. But, after all, why does she receive these names?

The term “takotsubo” has a very curious origin. This is the name of a trap used by Japanese fishermen to catch octopuses. She is like a pitcher lying diagonally, with a wider mouth. The disease gets its name from the shape of the patient’s heart.

When the ventricle changes shape due to stress, it takes on an appearance much like these traps. This format is easily identified in imaging exams.

The name “stress-induced heart disease” is pretty self-explanatory. Still, we will talk more about the causes of the problem below.

What are the possible causes for it?

The problem is not called “broken heart syndrome” for nothing, is it? The main cause for the development of this condition is undoubtedly some situation that causes great emotional stress, causing this feeling to be reflected in the heart organ.

This happens due to the release of substances (such as hormones, including adrenaline, secreted by the adrenals) from the stress-causing trigger. When released in large amounts, it can cause changes in the blood supply to the heart and cause the muscle to contract inappropriately.

Some possible triggers for the development of the problem are:

  • Financial problems;
  • Difficult diagnoses in the health area;
  • Problems in the family;
  • Death of a loved one;
  • Love problems, among others.

Are there risk groups for the development of the problem?

There is no specific group for the development of broken heart syndrome, which is a problem that can affect people of any gender, ethnicity, age and social condition.

However, he is much more frequent among women over 40 and 50 years old, especially those who are experiencing the menopause process. The reason for this is still being studied, but researchers have hypothesized that there is a relationship between the drop in the production of female hormones (such as estrogen) and the fragility of the heart.

What are the symptoms of broken heart syndrome?

Like every problem, broken heart syndrome has its clinical signs. Overall, they are very similar to those observed in an acute myocardial infarction situation – which happens when blood flow in the heart does not happen the way it should.

The most commonly observed signs are:

  • Sudden chest pain;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • fainting;
  • Vomiting;
  • Dizziness;
  • Fatigue, among others.

In the presence of signs like these, it is essential that the patient seek immediate medical help. You never know what it could be and only health professionals, equipped with diagnostic tools, will be able to guide you on the next steps to take care of your heart.

How does your diagnosis work?

The diagnosis of broken heart syndrome is not so complex, especially thanks to the characteristic shape acquired by the ventricle after a stressful situation. However, some tests are needed to exclude other possible causes, such as a heart attack. Generally speaking, they include:

  • Echocardiogram, to assess heart shape and function;
  • Electrocardiogram, which can check the function of the heart;
  • Catheterization, to analyze how the blood flow is inside the organ.

In addition, the doctor may order other types of tests, such as a complete blood count and several others.

What are the treatments?

The treatment is drug. Broken heart syndrome is a transitory problem (remember the association with a cramp?), that is, it is normal for the muscle to return to its original state after a certain time.

Until then, you can take medicine to lessen the stress on that muscle, allowing it to relax and the blood to pass more smoothly. Pain and emotional medications may also be part of therapy.

Remembering that some cases may require hospitalization of the patient for frequent monitoring. This is more common among those who already have some type of cardiac dysfunction or are dealing with concurrent problems, including psychological ones.

As we can see, broken heart syndrome is a real problem. So, take good care of your heart health. After all, big disappointments, constant stress and the pressures of modern life can, yes, affect you in a negative way.

To learn more about it, enjoy and check out our Heart Health e-book. It is free material that is filled with information that will help you take better care of this organ and have a much healthier life. We hope you like it.

Technical review: Alexandre R. Marra, researcher at the Instituto Israelita de Ensino e Pesquisa Albert Einstein (IIEP) and permanent professor at the Graduate Program in Health Sciences at the Faculdade Israelita de Ciências da Saúde Albert Einstein (FICSAE).


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