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Broken Heart Syndrome: Ouch, stress can give you a heart break too, literally

Broken heart syndrome triggers a storm in the immune system which results in acute inflammation in the heart muscle. © Shutterstock

Broken heart syndrome is a rare condition known to be caused by traumatic events like the death of a loved one. But it can also be triggered by extreme stress too, reveals new study.

Written by Paras Hemrajani |Published : November 28, 2019 1:25 PM IST

It is a known fact that stress can cause chest pains and heartburns. Now a new study says that chronic stress can literally break your heart into pieces. This is known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome, in medical terms. According to the study, this may happen due to the stress caused by the loss of a loved one or any other traumatic event.

Broken heart syndrome means that a part of a person's heart break's off and enters the bloodstream in the form of a clot. This weakens the rest of the heart. According to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, job loss, medical treatments and other major life stressors may be behind this condition. Researchers say that the release of a high number of hormones (such as adrenaline) during a stressful time can stun the heart.

The idea for this research came when a report was published about a case of broken heart syndrome in a 63-year-old woman before she underwent treatment for metastatic breast cancer in Canada. Over 6 years, the time during which this study was conducted, more than 30 cancer patients were found to be suffering from broken heart syndrome. Researches have asked oncologists to keep broken heart syndrome in their mind if the cancer patient shows signs like chest pain, nausea, vomiting and palpitations. It is a temporary condition and can be easily reversed, if caught early. If left untreated, it can cause complications like heart attack and cardiogenic shock.

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Risks of broken heart syndrome

Treating this condition is easy and surgery may be required. Most people take one or two months to recover from the surgery. Problem arises when patients get complications like cardiogenic shock. This happens when the heart is unable to pump blood to the rest of the body. According to a Mayo Clinic research, one in ten cases develop these complications. According to researchers from the University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland, out of 1880 people who were diagnosed with broken heart syndrome, only 198 got cardiogenic shock. Out of these 198 people, 23.5 per cent died in hospital and only 2.3 per cent without complications died in hospital. Also, those who survived complications were more likely to die within the next 5 years. There is no way to treat patients with complications.

Prevention is better than surgery

Since you cannot control heart-breaking events, managing stress is the only other option for keeping broken heart syndrome at bay. There are different relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, exercise, picking up a hobby and eating a well-balanced diet that could help in managing your stress. Keeping a positive attitude is the first step, followed by accepting your situation and focusing on solutions. Exercise helps your body to fight stress. Changing lifestyle habits, like over-dependence on alcohol and smoking, could help in managing stress as can traveling or getting a pet.

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