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Jul 25, 2016

Positive Emotions Can Trigger Mysterious Heart Condition

“Broken heart syndrome” is triggered by both joyful and negative events, finds study.

It’s not only a stressful situation that can trigger heart events, according to a recent paper that highlights the link between positive emotions and a mysterious heart condition known as broken heart syndrome.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, often referred to as broken heart syndrome, is a temporary heart condition brought on by extreme emotional stress. During broken heart syndrome, people experience heart failure or heart attack-like symptoms including chest pain and shortness of breath, yet have no signs of heart disease. Most cases occur after very stressful events, such as the death of a loved one.

But according to recent findings, it’s not only a broken heart that can trigger this condition. In a recent paper published in the European Heart Journal, experts review recent findings from the International Takotsubo Registry, which tracks patients with the condition. Established in 2010, the registry includes patients from 25 cardiovascular centers across nine countries: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Based on registry data, joyful events were associated with roughly 4% of all cases triggered by emotion. For example, broken heart syndrome may have been triggered by birthday parties, weddings or becoming a grandparent.

But that’s not to say we should all fear broken heart syndrome when facing exciting or stressful situations. Past research has found that broken heart syndrome is more common in women than men and tends to occur in older or elderly adults. And fortunately, broken heart syndrome usually resolves on its own within weeks.

Still, experts hope to continue to learn about the cause and treatment of this mysterious condition. Many patients with broken heart syndrome are misdiagnosed, since symptoms mimic that of a heart attack or heart failure. With additional research, experts hope to better understand broken heart syndrome to help prevent and treat this rare condition.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Why is broken heart syndrome named Takotsubo cardiomyopathy?
  • Japanese researchers named this condition after a type of octopus trap (known as tako tsubo) that resembles the shape of the enlarged heart. “Cardiomyopathy” refers to a disease of the heart muscle.
  • How is broken heart syndrome (Takotsubo cardiomyopathy) treated?
  • Broken heart syndrome (Takotsubo cardiomyopathy) can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Once other causes are ruled out, patients may be treated with medication and most make a full recovery within one or two months.


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