Broken Heart Syndrome

I am currently working on a project for my anatomy and physiology class on broken heart syndrome. I find it very interesting and something that a lot of people are unaware of and I thought that it would be nice to share.

It is a temporary weakening of the muscle in the heart. It’s real name is Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy or also known as stress cardiomyopathy. It was discovered in the 1900’s by Japanese researchers and is often mistaken for a heart attack. “Tako tsubo” is the name of an octopus trap in Japan and it is named after this because it resembles the shape of the left ventricle, which is the base of the heart’s main pumping chamber, when broken heart syndrome occurs. This often occurs after severe emotional stress such as finding out a loved one has passed away. It could also happen after fighting, while public speaking, being extremely surprised, when your dealing with financial loss, etc. Aspirin appears to help the treatment and the majority of cases heal within 1-4 weeks. Like I said before, it is often misdiagnosed with a massive heart attack when a patient has really suffered from a days long surge in epinephrine and other stress hormones that temporarily “stun” the heart.

It is believed that some people may respond to sudden overwhelming emotional stress by releasing large amounts of catecholamines into the blood stream along with breakdown products and small proteins produced by an excited nervous system. These chemicals can be temporarily toxic to the heart, stunning the muscle and producing symptoms similar to a heart attack. However, examinations by angiograms shows no blockages in the arteries supplying the heart, blood tests fail to reveal the typical signs of a heart attack, and MRI scans show no irreversible muscle damage. What is clearly seen is the ballooning of the left ventricle of the heart.

It’s also believed that the heart muscle becomes overwhelmed by massive amounts of adrenaline. This may cause narrowing to the arteries that supply the heart with blood, decreasing the blood flow. Another cause could be the adrenaline binding to the heart cells directly causing calcium in large amounts to enter the cells making them temporarily dysfunctional.

While broken heart syndrome isn’t as common as a heart attack, it occurs more frequently than doctors realize. We are only beginning to understand why it happens and who is most likely to get it. Most people don’t have a previous history of heart disease and it primarily affects women averaging 60 years old but it can also occur in young women and men. The vast majority is seen in post-menopausal women. In rare cases death can occur. The majorities recovery is usually fast and leaves no permanent damage to the heart. However, further research is needed and more studies should be done.

There is no real way to prevent broken heart syndrome from happening. Some thoughts I have are to become actively involved in exercise such as yoga and meditation to relax your mind and control your stress hormones. Starting these types of practices earlier in life could help you save yourself later on if you get too excited, upset or scared to cause a problem such as this. Relax and let your mind be free and live your life day by day.

 

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