Heart Conditions

Have You Heard About Broken Heart Syndrome?

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Almost used as poetic justice, the tales of a broken heart have been re-told and highlighted enough times through generations. But little is known of the broken heart as a medical condition. Broken heart syndrome is medically known as apical ballooning syndrome, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, and stress cardiomyopathy. First acknowledged in 1990 in Japan, this condition is far more common in women than in men, especially the ones in their mid-40s to late 70s. Research shows postmenopausal women count for 81% of the total cases. 

What is broken heart syndrome?

Simply put, broken heart syndrome is a temporary, reversible condition that triggers swift weakness of the heart muscle (the heart's left ventricle, which is its main pumping chamber), disrupting its usual functioning. It is often brought on by extreme trauma, sudden grief, shock, emotional or physical stress, hence the name- stress cardiomyopathy. 

The broken heart syndrome's symptoms may feel exactly like a heart attack due to the similarities, such as shortness of breath, pain in the chest, and forceful contractions. 

However, heart attacks are the result of blocked coronary arteries, while broken heart syndrome is triggered by an immense rush of adrenaline.

Can you die of a broken heart?

Yes, it is a fact, but at the same time, it is rare. Only 20% of the cases suffer death by heart failure. Since broken heart syndrome is reversible, there is no permanent damage to the heart and the recovery is complete and quick. 

What are the symptoms of broken heart syndrome? 

The onset of broken heart syndrome is very similar to that of a heart attack and if attention is not paid, it can be as fatal. Some of the main symptoms include:

  • Sudden chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diaphoresis (sweating)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

What is also important to understand is that broken heart syndrome doesn't have a specialised treatment and is treated similarly to a heart attack. The patient can fully recover within four weeks and may return to their regular life. The condition may get complicated sometimes, resulting in symptoms including: 

  • Fluid in the lungs 
  • Sluggish heartbeats 
  • Formation of blood clots within the heart due to the weakened heart muscle

What triggers broken heart syndrome? 

The trigger of broken heart syndrome lies in the sudden massive release of adrenaline as a stress response. This gush overwhelms the heart muscle, narrowing the small arteries and causing a temporary blockage in the blood flow to the heart. 

Furthermore, the adrenaline can also fuse directly with heart cells, allowing excessive amounts of calcium to enter the cells which can then prevent the heart cells from beating properly.

Can broken heart syndrome be prevented?

There is no standard procedure to prevent Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. However, according to some experts, managing stress levels can help minimise the triggers. Some of the practices that can help you keep the syndrome at bay include: 

  • Stress management with the help of meditation, yoga, or Tai-chi
  • Anger management with the help of therapy and other techniques

What is the treatment for Broken Heart Syndrome?

There are no standard treatment protocols for reversing broken heart syndrome. The doctors usually follow the same course of treatment and medication as for a heart attack unless the severity involves low blood pressure or fluid buildup in the lungs. To resolve such a complex life threat, doctors may recommend beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and water pills. Additional aspirin tablets may also be given to avoid any plaque building in the arteries.  


Stress can single-handedly cause a lot of health damage, in order to keep such problems at bay, follow the precautionary practices and make your everyday health choices wisely.

Do you experience any signs of broken heart syndrome?

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