‘Broken heart syndrome,’ a very real and potentially serious condition

Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 6:46 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - February is the month of love, and while many are spending this time surrounded by loved ones, some are reminded this time each year about the loved ones they have lost.

February is also heart health month, and a local cardiologist is raising awareness about “broken heart syndrome.”

“Broken heart syndrome,” a very real and even serious condition.

“People who are healthy people, who don’t have a lot of risk factors for heart trouble, may think ‘there’s nothing wrong with me,’” West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Christopher Thompson said. “They can be in serious trouble if they don’t get to medical care, because it can happen that way.”

Dr. Thompson said while the exact cause is still unclear, “It’s usually a very stressful, adrenergic event that causes this.”

Dr. Thompson said it is usually preceded by an intense physical or emotional event - anything from a broken bone to the loss of a loved one.

“They may have chest pains, shortness of breath, EKG changes that look as heart attack,” Dr. Thompson said. “We end up taking them to the cath lab and they have normal coronaries, and they just have a heart that’s gotten weak because of the stress.”

Broken heart syndrome is also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy (takotsubo), which comes from the name for a pot used by Japanese fishermen to trap octopus.

“Because the ventricle looks like an octopus who’s going away, the tip of the heart doesn’t work at all, and just the base - like an octopus who’s, like I said, going in the water and trying to get out of there,” Dr. Thompson said.

While broken heart syndrome can be fatal, typically these patients are treated similar to heart attack patients.

“A lot of times we can just watch them in the hospital for a day or two, put them on some heart medicines for a weak heart and they will recover,” Dr. Thompson said.

Dr. Thompson said if you are experiencing signs or symptoms that mimic a heart attack like shortness of breath or chest pain to seek medical attention.

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