Can a broken heart have an adverse impact on your physical health? As it turns out, broken heart syndrome is a real condition recognized by the medical community. Learn what it is, how it affects your health, and whether it’s a cause for concern.

What Is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome, clinically known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, refers to a set of heart-related symptoms that arise due to extreme emotional or mental distress. People often associate it with the break-up or death of a significant other. However, it applies in any situation causing you great distress. As a result of the mental trauma, people may experience symptoms often associated with a heart attack, such as chest pain/tightness, wheezing, dizziness, and nausea.

Broken heart syndrome is believed to account for 2% of all heart attacks. It also affects women at 10 times the rate compared to men.

What Causes Broken Heart Syndrome?

Various incidents can trigger broken heart syndrome. Examples include the passing of a loved one, a poor health prognosis, major financial loss, and even national/global-level events. The number of incidents, in fact, spiked during the peak of COVID-19. The condition stemmed not from the coronavirus itself, but the stress associated with it.

What Happens to Your Body During Broken Heart Syndrome?

People often experience symptoms within minutes or hours of a traumatic event. The body releases a surge of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and norepinephrine. In turn, you may experience symptoms like difficulty breathing, a heaviness in the chest, and heart palpitations. As such, it’s not unusual for people to mistake these symptoms for a pending heart attack.

Is Broken Heart Syndrome Dangerous for Your Health?

In most instances, symptoms are temporary, and your pulmonary functions return to normal within several days or weeks with no long-term effects. However, 10% of sufferers experience additional episodes within five years, according to a Cedars-Sinai study. The condition can also cause short-term heart failure. As mentioned, broken heart syndrome has led to actual heart attacks in 2% of heart attack patients.

Broken heart Syndrome vs. a Heart Attack

Here’s the main difference: a heart attack usually causes long-term and permanent damage to the heart muscles, while broken heart syndrome does not. The former also stems from a blockage in the coronary arteries. This can stem from a number of factors, such as a poor diet, alcohol consumption, and genetic factors.

See also: Heart Attack Warning Signs

Treatment for Broken Heart Syndrome

At the moment, there’s no standardized treatment for broken heart syndrome. However, medical professionals have identified ways to lower your risk of developing symptoms in the aftermath of an upsetting situation. It all comes down to lowering stress.

  • Stay physically active. Exercise releases endorphins and other “feel-good” hormones that give you a temporary but natural sense of feeling good. This will help counteract your emotions toward a stressful situation.
  • Practice deep breathing. Stress causes an elevation in heartbeat. Deep breathing lowers your heart rate, and studies show it can lower your stress and improve your mood.
  • Try journaling. Write about whatever is on your mind, and don’t hold back. Journaling for better health and stress reduction is even supported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Accept the situation. If you need to grieve, then fully grieve and allow the feelings to be as they are without judgment. Know that the heartache is temporary and this too shall pass.

The symptoms of broken heart syndrome usually go away on their own, though it’s always best to err on the side of caution to verify that the underlying issue isn’t something more serious.

See also: Holiday Heart Syndrome – What You Should Know

If you experience broken heart syndrome or suspect you might have other heart conditions, it’s best to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist near you in Lafayette, LA.

Dr. Corwin A. Thomas is the best cardiologist in the Acadiana area who can help assess heart problems you are experiencing and develop a treatment plan to get your heart healthier. To learn more about the services we provide or schedule an appointment, fill in this form, and our staff will get in touch with you. Be kind to your heart and contact us today!