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Broken Heart Syndrome
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Resource Description: 
The American Heart Association’s mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Johns Hopkins Medicine touches on frequently asked questions about Broken Heart syndrome.
The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives.
Episode number: 
1304

Can you really die of a broken heart? Research says that indeed you can die from Broken Heart Syndrome, also known as Takotsubo and Stress Cardiomyopathy. But with quick medical intervention, the condition can be completely reversed. Maryann Murray shares her story of how stress suddenly turned her into a cardiac patient.

[SOURCE: Mayo Clinic ]

Broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition that's often brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they're having a heart attack. In broken heart syndrome, there's a temporary disruption of your heart's normal pumping function, while the remainder of the heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions.

What causes broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome may be caused by the heart's reaction to a surge of stress hormones. The condition may also be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy by doctors.

The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are treatable, and the condition usually reverses itself in about a week.

What are the symptomes of broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome symptoms can mimic a heart attack. Common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Any long-lasting or persistent chest pain could be a sign of a heart attack, so it's important to take it seriously and call 911 if you experience chest pain.

How is broken heart syndrome different from a heart attack?

Heart attacks are generally caused by a complete or near complete blockage of a heart artery. This blockage is due to a blood clot forming at the site of narrowing from fatty buildup (atherosclerosis) in the wall of the artery. In broken heart syndrome, the heart arteries are not blocked, although blood flow in the arteries of the heart may be reduced.

Broken heart syndrome affects women far more often than men. It appears that most people who have broken heart syndrome are women 50 or older.

In rare cases, broken heart syndrome is fatal. However, most who experience broken heart syndrome quickly recover and don't have long-lasting effects.

Other complications of broken heart syndrome include:

  • Backup of fluid into your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Disruptions in your heartbeat

It's also possible that you may have broken heart syndrome again if you have another stressful event. However, the odds of this happening are low.

How is broken heart syndrome diagnosed?

Broken heart syndrome is usually diagnosed in an emergency or hospital setting, since most people with the condition have symptoms identical to a heart attack.

Call 911 or emergency medical help or have someone drive you to an emergency room if you experience new or unexplained chest pain or pressure that lasts for more than a few moments. Don't waste any time for fear of embarrassment if it's not a heart attack. Even if there's another cause for your chest pain, you need to be seen right away.

Have a family member or friend go with you, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help soak up all the information provided during your evaluation.

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