A person with broken heart syndrome usually has had recent emotional or physical stress, such as the death of a loved one or an asthma attack. This stress results in symptoms that are similar to a heart attack, such as:
It is difficult to tell the difference between broken heart syndrome and a heart attack since both can have changes in electrocardiograms (EKGs) and blood tests.
Doctors rely on other tests that allow them to look for left ventricle abnormalities that indicate broken heart syndrome. The syndrome causes the left ventricle to narrow and develop a rounded bottom.
In addition, those with broken heart syndrome typically lack the coronary artery blockages associated with heart attacks.
While the syndrome does occur in both genders, a recent literature review found that 90% of broken heart cases occur in postmenopausal women. The condition typically occurs in women who are aged 60 years and older. The reasons why the condition occurs more in women is still uncertain. However, researchers think sex hormones may play a role.
Broken heart syndrome is a temporary and reversible condition. The left ventricle will revert to its normal shape and function in days or weeks. It’s also uncommon for it to happen again.
We will all experience stress in our lives. Learning how to cope with stress, especially when it's unexpected may help you avoid problems. Mental Health America offers the following suggestions to cope:
Mental Health America
The American Institute of Stress
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Broken heart syndrome: real, potentially deadly but recovery quick. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press_releases/2005/02_10_05.html. Accessed December 9, 2015.
Coping with stress checklist. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/coping-stress-checklist#.UwYqmM53eRM. Accessed December 9, 2015.
Derrick D. The "Broken Heart Syndrome": Understanding takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Crit Care Nurse. 2009;29(1):49-57.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. British Heart Foundation website. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/conditions/cardiomyopathy/takotsubo-cardiomyopathy.aspx. Accessed December 9, 2015.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 2, 2015. Accessed December 9, 2015.
Zeb M, Sambu N, Scott P, Curzen N. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy: a diagnostic challenge. Postgrad Med J. 2011;87(1023):51-59.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.
What can we help you find?close ×