Know the signs of a broken heart

It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for you to suffer from a broken heart.

When you think of a broken heart, you may picture a cartoon drawing with a jagged line through it. But a real-life broken heart can actually lead to cardiac consequences.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), broken heart syndrome, also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, can strike even if you’re healthy.

Women are more likely than men to experience the sudden, intense chest pain – the reaction to a surge of stress hormones – that can be caused by an emotionally stressful event. It could be the death of a loved one or even a divorce, breakup or physical separation, betrayal or romantic rejection. It could even happen after a shock like winning the lottery.

Broken heart syndrome may be misdiagnosed as a heart attack because the symptoms and test results are similar. In fact, tests show dramatic changes in rhythm and blood substances that are typical of a heart attack. But unlike a heart attack, there’s no evidence of blocked heart arteries in broken heart syndrome.

In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well, while the rest of your heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions. Researchers are just starting to learn the causes, and how to diagnose and treat it.

The bad news is that broken heart syndrome can lead to severe, short-term heart muscle failure. However, the good news is that the syndrome is usually treatable. Most people who experience it make a full recovery within weeks, and they’re at low risk for it happening again.

The most common signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome are angina (chest pain) and shortness of breath. You can experience these things even if you have no history of heart disease.

Some signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome differ from those of heart attack. In broken heart syndrome, symptoms occur suddenly after extreme emotional or physical stress.

If your doctor thinks you have broken heart syndrome, you may need coronary angiography, a test that uses dye and special X-rays to show the insides of your coronary arteries. Other diagnostic tests are blood tests, EKG, echocardiography and cardiac MRI.

To keep tabs on your heart health, your doctor may recommend an echo about a month after you’re diagnosed with the syndrome. Talk with your doctor about how often you should schedule follow-up visits.

To find out more about broken heart syndrome and other heart-related diseases, visit AHA’s website at http://www.heart.org.

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Posted by on Feb 8 2013. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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