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'Broken Heart' Syndrome More Common In Middle-Aged And Older Women Than Younger People

Women are more likely to be stressed than men.

The annual incidence of broken heart syndrome has increased steadily in both sexes, with women contributing more than 83%, mostly those over 50.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : October 16, 2021 2:17 PM IST

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as 'broken heart' syndrome, is often triggered by stress or loss. The condition can lead to long-term heart injury and impaired heart function. According to a study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA), broken heart syndrome has become more common now, especially among middle-aged and older women who are being diagnosed with the condition up to 10 times more often than younger women or men of any age.

This finding further validates the role of heart-brain connection in overall health, especially for women, said senior author of the study Susan Cheng, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges and stressors for women, but the incidence of broken heart syndrome has been rising well before the coronavirus outbreak, the study suggested.

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Women more prone to developing Takotsubo syndrome

It is already known that women are more prone to developing Takotsubo syndrome, compared to men. The new study is the first to reveal age-based sex differences.

Cheng and her research team examined the data of more than 135,000 women and men who were diagnosed with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy between 2006 and 2017. They found that women are diagnosed more frequently than men, and that women aged 50 to 74 are being diagnosed more frequently, at least six to 10 times more often, than for any other demographic.

The annual incidence of broken heart syndrome increased steadily in both sexes, with women contributing more than 83%, mostly those over 50.

There was a significant increase in incidence among middle-aged women and older women, compared to younger women.

Brain-Heart Connection explained

How the brain and nervous system respond to different types of stressors changes as women age, and there seems to be a tipping point, just beyond midlife, where an excess response to stress can impact the heart. Women in this situation are especially affected, and their risk appears to increase, explained Cheng.

Christine M. Albert, chair of the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute, noted that this study helps further confirm that women of a certain age range are disproportionately at higher risk for stress cardiomyopathy, and that the risk is increasing.

The rise in broken heart syndrome could be due to changes in susceptibility, the environment, or both, she suggested. But she stressed the need for more work to find out the underlying disease drivers in Takotsubo condition and other women-dominated conditions.

Cheng and her team are further investigating the longer-term implications of a Takotsubo diagnosis, molecular markers of risk, and the factors that may be contributing to rising cases of this condition.

Previous studies have shown women are more likely to be stressed than men and they also experience significantly higher levels of stress higher than men.

A survey conducted by the NGO Population Foundation of India last year revealed that women are more stressed than men during the pandemic lockdown due to various reasons, such as extra workload at home, family pressure, and lack of access to sanitary napkins.

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