Broken Heart Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

He Broken heart syndrome Or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a disease that affects the heart muscle (temporarily), but unlike infarction or heart attack, there is no Obstruction of the coronary arteries.

In broken heart syndrome, the left ventricle of the heart (which pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body) is seen Weakened from moment to moment, apparently due to a situation of great stress experienced by the patient.

Broken heart syndrome

Although not a well-known condition, this syndrome is more prevalent than you think. As the symptoms can be confused with those of a common heart attack, sometimes it is not correctly diagnosed.

Characteristics of Broken Heart Syndrome

In this syndrome the heart can not pump blood efficiently and the person feels chest pain and difficulty breathing, as if he were Suffering a heart attack, although in fact it is not.

Despite the weakening of the left ventricle of the heart, most patients recover completely within a few weeks.

Broken heart syndrome is also known as"Takotsubo cardiomyopathy,"as the first case was described in Japan and the name Tako-Tsubo corresponds to a container of conical form that is used to capture octopuses.

In cases of broken heart syndrome, the left ventricle of the heart takes on a shape similar to that of this vessel.

Other names with which this disease is known are transient apical dysfunction or stress cardiomyopathy.

Main symptoms of broken heart syndrome

broken heart

At the beginning the symptoms may be identical to those of a heart attack. The person suddenly feels an intense chest pain and feeling of lack of breath.

There may also be arrhythmias and heart failure.

These symptoms usually present abruptly after the patient experiences a situation of much physical or emotional stress.

How is heart-broken syndrome different from infarction?

What happens in the infarction is the following

Coronary arteries, which carry blood with oxygen and nutrients to heart cells, are slowly reducing their caliber due to deposits Of cholesterol and nicotine until a clot completely obstructs its light.

When this happens the cells of the cardiac muscle can not receive oxygen and they die, causing the infarction, that is to say, the death of part of the tissue cardiac.

Instead, in broken heart syndrome, what apparently happens is this:

(I say apparently because in reality the mechanisms are not yet well known).

When the patient lives a situation of great stress, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of their work, A couple break Or major surgery, the torrent Blood is invaded by a large number of Catecholamines ( adrenalin Y Noradrenaline ), Chemicals associated with stress.

For reasons that are still unknown, in some people these catecholamines weaken the walls of the left ventricle of the heart, causing Broken heart syndrome

As you see, in this case there are no obstructed arteries or death of the heart muscle cells.

Factors that can trigger Takotsubo's cardiomyopathy

Girl with broken heart

As you have already read in previous paragraphs, the researchers believe that the main cause of the weakening of the heart is the high levels of Adrenaline and noradrenaline in the blood, caused in turn by a situation of great stress.

These are the main triggers that have been found:

  • Surprising death of a close loved one (child, parents, spouse).

  • Terrifying medical diagnosis (cancer for example).

  • Situations of domestic violence.

  • Lose large sums of money.

  • Lose the job.

  • Surprise parties.

  • Divorce.

  • Having to speak in public .

  • Natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.).

  • Physical stress due to major trauma (traffic accident for example), major surgery or asthma attack.

Although not so frequent, some medications can also be the cause of broken heart syndrome.

How is broken heart syndrome diagnosed?

If a family member, friend, or yourself suddenly feels a strong chest pain and shortness of breath, they will probably think that it can be a And you would call an ambulance immediately.

But once they arrive at the hospital, the following tests are the ones that help to rule out the possibility of the infarction and to guide the diagnosis towards the Broken heart syndrome:

  • Electrocardiogram
    The alterations in the electrical waves of the heart are different from those that appear in the infarction.

  • Blood test
    They do not reveal lesions in the heart muscle.

  • Echocardiogram
    It shows unusual bulging and movement of the left ventricle of the heart.

  • Angiography
    It shows no obstructions in the coronary arteries.

If in addition the patient has recently suffered some Intense stress , Then it is likely to be a broken heart syndrome. Calls it so because in many cases, the trigger is the death of someone very dear).

But before reaching this conclusion, the doctor should always rule out other possible causes for chest pain, such as blows or trauma.

Questions that the doctor will surely ask

If you are having chest pain, the doctor will ask you the following questions:

  • What are the symptoms?

  • When did they start?

  • Does the pain in your chest radiate to other parts of the body?

  • Does the pain increase momentarily when the heart beats?

  • How would you describe the pain?

  • Do the symptoms worsen with exercise or exertion?

  • Do you have a family history of heart problems?

  • Do you suffer from chronic illness?

If the doctor finally diagnoses you with stress cardiomyopathy then you will probably have many questions as well.

Questions you will want to ask if you have this syndrome

If you have had symptoms of a heart attack but after performing some tests it has been confirmed that in Reality is not a heart attack but it is broken heart syndrome, it is important that you finish with all doubts and ask the doctor what following:

  • What has caused my symptoms?

  • What tests will I do?

  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?

  • What will the treatment be?

  • How long will my heart recover?

  • Can I lead a normal life?

  • Can these symptoms appear again?

Most patients with broken heart syndrome remain in the hospital for a few days. When they return to their homes, they continue to Some medications for one to two months, and after full recovery of your heart, you are likely to be able to stop the medication.

In general, this syndrome does not leave any type of sequels in the long term. But it is also true that there are fatal cases, in which the patient Dies shortly after the onset of symptoms (although rare cases).

Treatment to follow

It may surprise you to know that there are no guidelines for standard treatment in broken heart syndrome.

In general, the doctor acts as if it were a heart attack, until it is discovered that it is a stress cardiomyopathy.

Most people stay hospitalized for a few days, until heart function improves.

Once the diagnosis is clear, the doctor will probably order cardiac medications, such as inhibitors of the enzyme Angiotensin, beta blockers or diuretics.

These medicines help reduce the workload that the heart must perform, and this way it favors the recovery of the heart muscle.

If you have had this syndrome, your doctor will probably tell you to continue this medication for a month or two, until the heart has Completely recovered.

When the anatomy and function of the heart have returned to normal, you may be able to leave the medicines (not without consulting the doctor, for Of course).

In general, broken heart syndrome occurs only once, although there is a remote possibility that it may recur.

How to Prevent Broken Heart Syndrome

Although there is no treatment that has proven to be effective in preventing this syndrome, if you take the following measures you will surely be Decreasing the odds of you occurring:

  • Try to avoid situations that create stress.

  • If you can not avoid it and you are already experiencing some type of emotional or physical stress situation, then the techniques to deal with stress Can be useful: meditation, yoga, Breathing techniques And relaxation are some good examples.

  • Share your feelings with friends and family who support you. This is also useful to relieve the stress you are suffering.

  • Moderate physical exercise is another tool you can use to lessen the effects of stress on your body.

  • Be careful, some people try to deal with stress in unhealthy ways: drinking alcohol, smoking or eating too much. Avoid these Behaviors please, if you want to have a healthy heart.


Did you know that 1% to 2% of people who have been diagnosed with heart attack have actually suffered from broken heart syndrome?

The experts continue to study this condition to better understand its causes and to be able to develop more effective treatments and perhaps, methods that Can prevent it.

Among other things, it has been discovered that broken heart syndrome affects many more women than men: approximately 90% of cases Studied corresponds to women who are in post-menopause stage.

It is also unknown why, but broken heart syndrome is more frequent in the spring and summer months, unlike infarction, which occurs with Higher frequency in winter.

Do you know how the name of the broken heart syndrome came about? Well, count Dr. Ilan Wittstein of Johns Hopkins University, who Has studied this condition for a decade, that this name arose after verifying that many of the patients who suffered it had lost a Family.

In most cases it was the spouse, the father or the mother. Some of them even began to feel the first symptoms during the Funeral, says the lawyer.

Other patients had just Auto accident or an assault . Wittstein says that even once he attended a patient With broken heart syndrome, 60 years old, who began to feel the pain soon after family and friends shouted "Surprise" At the party for her birthday, party that she knew nothing of course.

If all the cases studied by Hopkins University are taken into account, the average age of patients with broken heart syndrome is 63 Years, although there was one case of a woman with 27 years and another of 32 years of age.

Some of these women had their hearts so damaged that they Would have died if they had not received aggressive treatment So that his blood continued to circulate. Nevertheless, All of them fully recovered.

In general terms, it can be said that this syndrome has a rather low mortality rate, around 5%.

Researchers point out that It's very important To differentiate broken heart syndrome from a heart attack , So that the People can be treated properly and to be told that their hearts will fully recover.

This way the patients will not leave Thinking that their heart has suffered permanent damage and will need to take heart medications for the rest of their lives.

The discovery of this syndrome, which often occurs after the death of a close relative, suggests that the old idea that it is possible To die of grief Or fear , As it is said in some songs and novels, perhaps encloses some truth.

What is your experience with broken heart syndrome? Having it will help me and the readers get more opinions. Thanks!


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