What is a Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken Heart Syndrome, also known as cardiomyopathy, is a condition brought on by an emotionally or physically stressful situation. Events that adversely affect the person’s emotions, like separation from or the loss of a loved one, betrayal, trauma, shock, depression, a difficult and stressful tooth extraction, or receiving happy news (like expecting a child, winning the lottery and similar) can bring on this syndrome. It is more common in women than in men.

Events which have an emotional impact on the person also affect the function of the heart and disturb its balance. With the excessive release of the stress hormones the level of adrenaline increases and secretion of endorphines – the happiness hormone – is reduced. Abnormalities appear in the functioning of the heart. These changes affect the metabolism and bring on certain symptoms in the person. The most common of these are tachycardia, shortness of breath, chest tightness and chest pain. Although the person may experience this like a heart attack there is no arterial blockage in the Broken Heart Syndrome. ECG and blood tests also show differences between the two conditions. It is important that before conducting the tests the patient is asked if before the symptoms appeared he has experienced an event that brought on sudden emotional changes.

Although the Broken Heart Syndrome is seen to have a significant effect on the heart, the symptoms can be short-lived and disappear by themselves and it is a treatable disease.

How is the Broken Heart Syndrome treated?

In the treatment of the Broken Heart Syndrome a drug treatment and/or change of life style is proposed.

Drug treatment: Various drugs can be prescribed for symptoms like blood pressure problems, prevention of blood clots and regulating stress hormones. Treatment is completed when the heart can fulfill its function as it did before.

Change of life style: It is important to know how to manage stress, coupe with stress and be a more relaxed person. The person is directed towards gaining these skills and improving his emotional and physical well-being. Accordingly the person may be directed towards psychotherapy, and/or various physical activities, hobbies, breathing and relaxation techniques can be suggested. He is also recommended to move away from those things in his life that create stress and to remain in positive and supportive relationships.