Mental Health

Is Broken Heart Syndrome Real???

Broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition that’s often brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they’re having a heart attack. In broken heart syndrome, there’s a temporary disruption of your heart’s normal pumping function, while the remainder of the heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions.

Broken heart syndrome may be caused by the heart’s reaction to a surge of stress hormones. The condition may also be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy by doctors.

The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are treatable, and the condition usually reverses itself in about a week. From mayoclinic

What Is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome was first described in the 1990s by Japanese physicians who observed that certain patients with heart attack-like symptoms had a left ventricle shaped like a fishing pot used to trap octopuses, the takotsubo pot. You may hear the condition described as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.

While broken heart syndrome occurs in both men and women, it is most common in post-menopausal women. The syndrome is not a heart attack, but it produces symptoms similar to one. It typically resolves without lasting damage, and is fatal only in rare cases.

A person experiencing broken heart syndrome may arrive in the emergency room with heart attack symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. However, unlike a heart attack, no blockages will be discovered in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, and the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) will have an unusual and distinctive shape.

Sometimes broken heart syndrome can be traced to an emotional or physical cause; other times the cause is never known. Researchers believe it can be triggered by forms of stress as varied as a catastrophic medical diagnosis, an acute medical illness, the death of a relative, a serious car accident, or a devastating financial loss. While the syndrome is not well understood, researchers think the left ventricle may be “stunned” and unable to function because of a surge of stress hormones after the patient experiences trauma.

How Is Broken Heart Syndrome Diagnosed and Treated?

If you have symptoms of a heart attack, you should assume you are having a heart attack and respond immediately:  Dial 911. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital or have someone else drive you.

In the ambulance and at the hospital, your medical care team will give you a combination of the following tests to see if your symptoms are heart related:

  • An electrocardiogram, which measures the electrical activity of the heart and the heart’s rhythm
  • Blood tests to check for cardiac enzymes that indicate damage to the heart muscle
  • An echocardiogram to take an ultrasound image of the heart
  • An angiogram to view an x-ray movie of the heart and its blood vessels to check for blockages restricting blood flow

If your heart’s left ventricle has the syndrome’s characteristic shape and no blockages are found in the blood vessels, then you will be diagnosed with broken heart syndrome. Treatment primarily consists of an initial recovery period in the hospital and heart medications to reduce the stress on the heart. Most patients recover within a few days to a couple of months.

Heart Attack

Broken Heart Syndrome


  1. Chest pressure, tightness
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Throat tightness
  4. Pain in the arm or back
  5. Chest pressure, tightness
  6. Shortness of breath
  7. Throat tightness
  8. Pain in the arm or back


  1. At rest
  2. After unusual exertion (i.e. shoveling heavy snow)
  3. After emotional distress:
  4. Loss of loved one
  5. Financial distress

Cardiac catheterization shows

  1. A blocked heart artery due to a clot
  2. Normal heart arteries


  1. Immediate angioplasty to open the heart artery
  2. Medical treatment to aid the recovery of the heart

What to do when symptoms start?

Call 911 immediately to have an ambulance bring you to the Emergency Department


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