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Broken Heart Syndrome: When The Heart Gets Literally Broken

Broken Heart Syndrome: When The Heart Gets Literally Broken

The pain and stress acquired from the death of a loved one or a break-up with a lover can be life-threatening. But, people often disregard it since it is a normal human tendency to experience negative emotions when exposed to various situations. However, according to studies, this can cause the Heart to break and worse, can even lead to death.

This is especially true when extreme negative emotions cause severe abnormalities in the heart’s normal pacing and cause intense chest discomforts to a person. At times, this can be normal, but, when it becomes too much to handle, you may already be experiencing Broken Hearted Syndrome (BHS) without even realizing it. Broken Hearted Syndrome, what is it and can someone die from it?

Broken Heart Syndrome

Broken Heart Syndrome, with its clinical term stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a temporary condition of the heart which causes a sudden, intense torment of the chest and abnormal heart rhythms. This comes after being exposed to a painful or stressful event like after being fired, failing in a test, losing a loved one forever and even after a break-up.

A person with a BHS syndrome may think as if he is having an episode of a heart attack when in fact, he is experiencing the symptoms of it. While it is not the same with other forms of heart and cardiovascular disease which is far life-threatening, it can be as harmful and detrimental.

Broken Heart Syndrome Causes

Studies do not yet clearly know the exact cause of BHS. However, it is mostly observed from the people who are exposed to a stress-inducing event and is most common among women from ages 50 years and above.

Stress can be categorized into two: Physical and Emotional. Physical stress can be in the form of dehydration, high or low body temperature and hypoglycemia. Meanwhile, emotional stress can be experienced after hearing a saddening or hurting news that triggers extreme negative emotions.

When stress occurs, the brain is signaled to produce adrenaline hormone. This hormone is responsible for the defense and coping mechanism of an individual when faced with unexpected event or danger. During a BHS attack, the brain ejects an overwhelming amount of adrenaline in response to a painful or stressful event which can be harmful as it may cause the heart muscle to weaken, heart cell to temporary dysfunction and narrow down the arteries.

Specifically, a few examples that may trigger a BHS attack are the following:

  • Breakup (Divorce or being separated from a loved one);
  • Sudden loss of a pet, friend or family member;
  • Winning or losing a game, competition or massive amount of money; and
  • After effects of gaining a major injury or wound from an accident or incident.

Additionally, according to the Mayo Clinic, some drugs may potentially cause a BHS to happen:

  • Venlafaxine – an antidepressant drug;
  • Epinephrine – a drug for treating severe allergies and asthma; and
  • Duloxetine – an antidepressant drug and nerve treatment for diabetic patients.

Signs and Symptoms

BHS can happen to anyone; even if a person has no record of heart or cardiovascular illness or even if he is physically healthy. Below are the signs and symptoms to cite:

  • Heart rhythm disturbances or heartbeat is too fast (arrhythmias)
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea); and
  • An intense feeling of torment in the chest (angina).

Broken Heart Syndrome vs Heart Attack

The signs and symptoms of BHS are often thought the same as those of experiencing a heart attack. Although there are some similarities, they are entirely different from each other.

First, BHS occurs after an emotionally or physically stressful event, while a heart attack happens when substances like cholesterol or fat block the blood flow, leading to long-term damage of a heart muscle.

Second, BHS is a temporary condition and not a disease. Its signs and symptoms will only last for days or weeks after adequate treatment. Meanwhile, a person who experienced a heart attack will have months or years for the recovery period.

Lastly, the effects of BHS is unlikely to cause damage to any heart muscle or result from a clog in the arteries. This means that it will not cause severe and long-term damage. Studies have also found out through EKG test that the effect of BHS to the heart is far different from a person who has experienced a heart attack.

Is BHS Fatal?

Stress cardiomyopathy can result in a severe but temporary failure of a specific muscle in the heart which can be fatal. Also, BHS attack may include cardiogenic shock which temporarily paralyzes the heart from performing its functions to pump blood. In the US, cardiogenic shock is one of the top leading causes of death of people with heart disease.

The good thing, however, is that BHS syndrome can be treated immediately. A person who had suffered from BHS can also recover within days or weeks.

Treatment

As of the moment, treatment plans for BHS is the same as the plans used in treating heart-related attacks. Usually, doctors give prescriptions which minimize the chest pain as well as to prevent another attack from happening, which occurs rarely. For more treatment and prevention options you may visit De-Stressing Tips.

Bottomline

Broken Heart Syndrome is a temporary condition of the heart that may pose a serious threat in one’s life if not treated immediately. As of today, doctors and experts are still on the process of determining the exact causes, symptoms, and treatments. It is also essential to seek immediate help from 911 if signs and symptoms of BHS happen.

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