What is the Broken Heart Syndrome?

No, it’s not what you get when the person of your dreams tells you you’re not the one. Broken Heart Syndrome (BHS) in the medical field is something more serious. Otherwise known as Stress Cardiomyopathy (SC), it refers to the condition in which stress sends a sudden flood of chemicals such as adrenaline into your heart, making it unable to pump properly.

Causes of Broken Heart Syndrome
Broken Heart Syndrome is very common among people who are grieving especially older women. Those who experienced death of a loved one like a parent or spouse are at great risk of this disorder. But it can also be due to a trauma like a road accident or mugging. Any type of event that triggers the sympathetic nervous system or the “fight or flight” mechanism can be a cause of this disorder.

Symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome
The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are similar to heart attack, which is why many people who have this condition think that they’re having a heart attack. Symptoms include chest pain, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath and weakness. However, the two are different conditions that require different types of treatment.

Treatment of Broken Heart Syndrome
Before any treatment is given, it’s important to clearly identify the condition to find out if it is heart attack or broken heart syndrome. Usually, the patient will stay in the hospital until the diagnosis is completed. Coronary angiography is used to diagnose the condition. Once it is clear that it’s stress cardiomyopathy, the doctor will prescribe heart medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta blockers or diuretics. These medications will help relax the heart and prevent succeeding attacks. Patients are expected to recover fully after one or two months. Medical procedures used for treating heart attack like stent placement, balloon angioplasty and surgery should not be used for broken heart syndrome. These treatments treat the blocked arteries, which is the cause of heart attack and not the broken heart syndrome.

Prevention of Broken Heart Syndrome
Managing stress is the number one preventive measure for this disorder. Stress hormones have damaging effects on the heart and cause for it to mimic heart attack symptoms. Because of this, it’s a must to take control of your stress level so it doesn’t get the better of you. For one, take time to relax, especially if you’re undergoing an emotional turmoil. Take some time off to take things into perspective so that the burden will feel lighter. Getting support from people close to you would also be a big help. If there is a death in the family, it’s imperative that you learn to accept that this is a reality in life that cannot be avoided. Learning to cope with the death of a loved one can surely help prevent this disorder. It’s also a must to see your doctor for regular check-up if you are in a trying time in your life.

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