What is Broken Heart Syndrome?
The Broken Heart Syndrome is a condition that is a temporary heart problem caused or triggered by events in life that are stressful or hard to handle. Even news that is favorable to the ears of the affected could cause broken heart syndrome. As already mentioned, the condition is temporary that it may only last for a week or even less. The condition is also referred as stress cardiomyopathy. In Japan, the condition is known and originally termed as takotsubo cardiomyopathy. The condition shouldn’t be identified as a heart attack, as what most people would confuse about. The distinct difference between broken heart syndrome and heart attack is that BHS is precipitated by stressful life events while heart attack involves oxygen depletion to the heart due to blockage and the like. Since it is commonly associated with heart attack or myocardial infarction, treatment for both is similar in some ways.
According to reports, the condition is said to be common in women who have advanced ages. Those who are 50 years old and older are the common victims of the said heart condition. Young women are not that affected. This is an uncommon condition that only accounts for about 1% to 2% of the total population.
As most patients are asymptomatic of the condition, broken heart syndrome would not spare others of its presenting symptoms. These are the common signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Increased and irregular heartbeat
- Body malaise
As the presenting symptoms persist, one should consult the doctor for it may indicate for another cardiac problem which is more fatal than the broken heart syndrome. Complications are also noted from this condition. Arrhythmias may develop. There is also a possibility that the person shall develop pulmonary edema or fluid accumulation in the lungs. Recurrence of the broken heart syndrome is likely, especially if there is another stressful event.
The exact mechanism and cause for broken heart syndrome is yet to be found with definite answers. As unclear as it is, the condition is believed to be caused by hormonal changes or increased stress hormones, such as adrenaline rush. It has been reported that about 85% of all cases of broken heart syndrome, stress is the cause of the phenomenon. Other stressors include grief, anger, fear, conflicts and personal problems. Constriction is the common side effect of increase epinephrine and also there would be an increase of the heart rate for compensation. This can then potentially damage a person’s heart or cause for a cardiac condition.
It is also noted that there are precipitating factors responsible for broken heart syndrome and these are:
- Death of a loved one
- Tragic news
- Domestic violence
- Accident or a series of unfortunate events
- Asthma attacks
Those at risk for this condition are women especially those who are 50 years old and beyond.
The condition can be diagnosed through the following examinations:
Physical examination or assessment
This is a standard protocol for any medical condition. As this is done, the gathering of pertinent data of the client’s medical history is essential. As reported, those affected with broken heart syndrome are people who have no symptoms or are symptomatic.
This test involves recording of the client’s electrical impulses that facilitates the cardiac rhythm and frequency. Electrical signals are recorded and would help assess the patient’s cardiac status.
This is an ultrasound of the heart. This would involve the imaging test of the heart and would then assist in the diagnosis of any heart condition.
The test involves checking for the heart’s shape with the use of radiographic rays. The x-ray can identify if there is an enlargement of the heart.
This would give certain levels of cardiac enzymes in the blood. As this is attained, assistance in the final diagnosis of the problem shall be attained.
The aim of the treatment course for broken heart syndrome is to alleviate the presenting symptoms. There has been no standard treatment for broken heart syndrome since it has been precipitated by life events such as this. As for that, the treatment for broken heart syndrome is similar with the treatment done to those who just had a heart attack. Here is the treatment for broken heart syndrome:
ACE inhibitors or angiotensin-converting enzyme. The drug is aimed in alleviating high blood pressure which is sometimes associated with broken heart syndrome. Beta blockers are also indicated for increased blood pressure. These drugs are indicated for they help and assist in the reduction of cardiac workload that complicates the case of broken heart syndrome.
As there is a possibility of recurrence. About 5% of all cases who have suffered broken heart syndrome have most likely developed the condition the second or third time around. The treatment course for the condition is aimed in therapeutic treatments such as relaxation techniques and long-term drug treatment. Living a stress-free life can also assist in the avoidance of broken heart syndrome. Having a healthy lifestyle can make or step one ahead from such condition. Eating a healthy diet is important as this can also be precipitated for people to develop cardiac problems. The condition presents a potential problem and shouldn’t be taken lightly as what most people do. Seeking medical advice is important as for it can assist the person in an emergent manner.