Broken Heart Syndrome: Heartbreak Can Kill

Broken heart syndrome remains a condition poorly understood by the general public, yet it can kill in about 5% of cases and sometimes lead to strokes. This syndrome refers to heartache, to “broken heart”. Although heartache is a common cause, it is not the only factor that can trigger this syndrome. Intense emotional stress such as bereavement can also be the cause of a crisis, as well as other causes such as respiratory failure and certain physical shocks. Often patients who experience such a painful event are unable to know the exact cause of this myopathy. Post-menopausal women are particularly affected by this syndrome.

Typical signs of broken heart syndrome

Broken heart syndrome is a condition that closely resembles the symptoms of myocardial infarction (heart attack) but does not affect the coronary arteries. In other words, the physiological causes are different.

A person suffering from this syndrome usually feels severe pain in the chest and sometimes shortness of breath or loss of consciousness. The similarity to heart attack symptoms is one reason why the condition is often misdiagnosed by emergency services and doctors.

To be sure that it is indeed a broken heart syndrome and not a heart attack, the doctor will perform an angiography in particular. In case of broken heart syndrome, no signs of problems with the coronary arteries appear in the examination. The mortality rate of broken heart syndrome is a little lower than that of myocardial infarction (about 5 %), but remains higher than imagined in the past.

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Several Complex Causes of Broken Heart Syndrome

Although the causes are not yet fully known, it is known that stressful events can cause this crisis, such as heartbreak, loss of a loved one, divorce, etc. Conversely, an event leading to a certain euphoria and intense joy can also cause a broken heart syndrome. The emotional factor seems to be fundamental as a triggering agent.

Physical causes can also trigger a crisis more rarely, such as intense exertion, for example climbing a bike that is too difficult. At the physiological level, scientists believe that in phases of intense stress the body releases hormones called catecholamines such as adrenaline or dopamine. These hormones can disrupt the heart and blood vessels.

Women more affected than men by this syndrome

Broken heart syndrome particularly affects post-menopausal women. In the United States, a study by the American Journal of Cardiology showed that 6,230 American women were hospitalized for this syndrome during 2012. About 90% of those affected are women, especially over the age of 50. .


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