Broken Hearts are Real

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By, Erin Mumby

It turns out that broken hearts are real! Stress cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome, is when intense stress causes severe heart muscle weakness. It’s a temporary heart condition caused by stressful situations. The stressors that cause this can be either emotional or physical. Emotional stressors include grief, fear, surprise, and anger. Physical stressors to your body include seizure, difficulty breathing, stroke or bleeding. Stress is the body’s response to anything it deems abnormal. The body produces various hormones and proteins like noradrenaline and adrenaline to help cope with the stress. The body produces large amounts of adrenaline to help the person defend themselves. The heart muscle is overwhelmed by the adrenaline in stress cardiomyopathy. The exact way that adrenaline affects the heart is unknown. It seems as if the effects of adrenaline on the heart are temporary and reversible.
Those affected with stress cardiomyopathy share symptoms with someone having a heart attack. These symptoms in- clude shortness of breath, low blood pressure, chest pain, and heart failure. These symptoms can happen anywhere from minutes to hours after the person experiences their stressful situation. The stress is usually unexpected. Broken heart syndrome can even be deathly in some cases. Patients can have congestive heart failure and shock. This can produce some life threatening abnormalities. On the bright side, patients with stress cardiomyopathy usually heal very quickly. Most people recover completely after stress cardiomyopathy. The heart muscle is not permanently damaged with this syndrome, this mean that affected patients will typically make a complete and rapid recovery.
Some people may be confused about the differences between stress cardiomyopathy and a heart attack. There are some big differences between the two. Most heart attacks stem from blockages and blood clot. Most patients with stress car- diomyopathy have normal coronary arteries without any blockages or clots.
Most people with stress cardiomyopathy have never had a history of heart disease. However, they sometimes have a history of neurological conditions. People who have had a head injury or a seizure disorder are more likely to suffer from stress cardiomyopathy. People who suffer from anxiety and depression are more likely to have broken heart syndrome. Stress cardiomyopathy primarily affects women. It is frequent in middle aged or elderly woman. The average age of a patient with stress cardiomyopathy is 60 years old. It can affect young men and women as well. However, most cases arise in postmenopausal women. The cause of this is still unknown. If you have broken heart syndrome once, it is unlikely that you will suffer from it again. If you or a love one experience any of these symptoms mentioned above consult your healthcare provider.