Broken Heart: That’s How Dangerous Heartbreak Is

High levels of emotional stress can actually cause severe damage to the heart muscle, even in young people. You have to know that

When a great love ends abruptly or a loved one suddenly dies, it is easy to say: “It broke my heart”. A formulation that can not only be correct in a figurative sense. Because strong emotional stress can actually seriously damage your heart muscle. Doctors then speak of broken heart syndrome or tako tsubo cardiomyopathy.

What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

In broken heart syndrome, the heart does not break as the word confusingly suggests. Rather, it is an acutely occurring heart muscle disease. In contrast to a heart attack. in which the coronary arteries are affected. The syndrome caused by emotional stress affects the left heart muscle or the pumping capacity of the heart and can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

Heart researchers suspect that there is probably a genetic disposition for broken heart syndrome. “It seems that certain areas of the brain that are important for processing emotions communicate more poorly with other areas of the brain than in healthy people,” explains Dr. Stephanie Grabhorn, chief physician at the Psychosomatic Acute Clinic Blomenburg in Select. “For this reason, stress processing and emotion regulation do not work optimally.”

What causes broken heart syndrome?

Emotional stress that attacks the heart can have different causes: It can be based on bereavement, separation, or a shocking experience.

A study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health shows that people often die themselves after the death of loved ones. For example, parents who lose a child (between the ages of 10 and 17) have a 31 percent increased risk of death in the following year. Losing a spouse, sibling, or child has been linked to a higher death rate in several long-term studies.

Does Broken Heart Syndrome particularly affect women?

In fact, women are more often affected than men, especially after menopause. This seems to be related to the fact that women with falling estrogen levels are more susceptible to the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. A strong release of these stress hormones can damage the heart muscle cells more easily and disrupt the pumping work of the heart, according to the expert. It is believed that 2 to 8 percent of women treated for a suspected heart attack actually have broken heart syndrome.

What happens with broken heart syndrome?

The heart is disturbed in its regular function. “Stress cardiomyopathy usually affects the function of the left ventricle,” said Dr. Garbhorn, “At the same time, the main artery is significantly narrowed, so that the heart has problems pumping blood into the body.”

How do I recognize Tako Tsubo Syndrome?

The symptoms are very similar to a heart attack: Those affected usually suffer from tightness in the chest, have shortness of breath, and severe heart pain, which can increase to so-called annihilation pain. Nausea, upper abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and sweating can also occur.

Only an X-ray in the hospital can clarify whether the coronary arteries or the left ventricle are affected.
There are estimates that about 2 percent of patients with heart attack symptoms will be hospitalized for broken heart syndrome. Compared to other heart conditions, it is extremely rare, but it mainly affects women.

What are the consequences of broken heart syndrome?

“Due to the weak pumping function of the left ventricle, symptoms of cardiac insufficiency occur,” explains the specialist in psychosomatics there is leg edema and water in the lungs. “

A broken heart syndrome is clearly not a heart attack, but in rare cases, it can still lead to cardiac arrhythmias with sudden cardiac death.

How can you prevent broken heart syndrome?

Since the research is still in its early stages and there are few studies available to date, no scientifically sound statements can be made about prevention. “In addition to psychosomatic causes, the genetic disposition or the hereditary factor probably also influences the onset and course of the acute heart muscle disease,” said Dr. Grabhorn.

How is broken heart syndrome treated?

So far, there is no fixed treatment concept. “In principle, the broken heart syndrome has a good prognosis with the right therapy. In addition to medicinal measures, such as the administration of a beta-blocker, psychotherapy plays an important role in combating symptoms,” said the expert.

It is important to have the cardiologist monitor your heart health for a long time after the event. In any case, psychological support is also useful to prevent a relapse.

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