By Margarita Nahapetyan
Having a broken heart can be really dangerous for health, and in fact, it can lead to a deadly outcome, report U.S. scientists who found why some individuals do suffer from the condition.
Rows in the family and bad news about a loved one can all contribute to the condition, medically called Takotsubo cardiomiopathy, and popularly known as "broken heart syndrome." It was first described by Japanese scientists in the early 90s, and involves symptoms similar to heart attack, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, that are more likely to be triggered by a highly stressful events, both emotional and physical. It is believed that the symptoms of broken heart syndrome are caused by the heart's reaction to a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones that cause part of the heart to temporarily weaken or become stunned. However, the syndrome, if treated in time, does appear to be temporary and completely reversible.
And while the condition still remains a mystery to many in the medical community, new findings from the experts at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, and Brown University, both in Rhode Island, may help physicians better understand and approach the condition. For their research, they analyzed 70 patients who were diagnosed with "broken heart syndrome" between July 2004 and April 2008.
Two-thirds of all the patients (about 67 per cent) in the new registry were postmenopausal women who had been exposed to a very stressful emotional or physical event just before the arrival to hospital. This included bad news about members of the family, car accidents, domestic arguments or severe physical illness. All that happened just before the onset of symptoms. Nearly 20 per cent of patients were in critical state (heart induced shock and abnormal heart rhythms) and required emergency room treatment in order to keep them alive.
Overall, most of the people in the registry received aspirin or heart drugs such as, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and statins during their stay in hospital. All of them, including those in the emergency room, completely recovered in the first 48 hours, said the researchers. In addition, there was another discovery that, unlike heart attacks which most often occur in winter, broken heart syndrome cases were more likely to occur in the spring time and summer months.
Dr. Richard Regnante, a lead author of the research, an interventional cardiology fellow at The Miriam Hospital and a teaching fellow in cardiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, said that it can be hard for cardiologists and doctors in emergency rooms to diagnose and manage individuals with broken heart syndrome. However, this seasonal pattern could help them better understand the process of the condition and could play a significant role in developing more effective short and long-term treatment options.
Some explain the syndrome as a transitory form of a heart attack, that does not leave any permanent damage to heart muscles. A broken heart just needs its time to overcome the pain and stress before it gets back on track with the help of close and supportive people. Others do not believe that there is a connection between the syndrome and coronary arteries, attributing the condition to the heart muscle issues.
"Since the seasonal pattern of broken heart syndrome that we observed is opposite of what it seen with heart attack patients, our findings suggest - but certainly do not prove - the latter theory may be correct," said Dr. Regnante who is now recruiting new patients with broken heart syndrome for his new study where he plans to figure out whether the condition can cause any internal damage to the heart.
A report on the registry and its findings will appear in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.