If it feels like a heart attack and acts like a heart attack, does that mean that it is a heart attack?
Chest pain and tightness, arm pain and shortness of breath are all hallmark symptoms of a heart attack, but they are also signs of another, lesser-known heart condition—Takotsubo (or “broken heart”) syndrome.
Heart attack’s less-dangerous doppelganger
While not as deadly as a full-blown coronary, broken heart syndrome—also referred to as a stress cardiomyopathy—can mimic a heart attack in many ways.
Both share similar symptoms, including heart failure, irregular contractions and cardiac fluid buildup.
In fact, the two conditions are so similar that even medical professionals can have a difficult time distinguishing between them, until certain cardiac imaging and blood tests are performed.
There is one major difference between the two cardiac conditions. Unlike a heart attack, people with broken heart syndrome typically don’t have visible signs of heart muscle damage, or plaque build-up in their arteries.
Triggered by emotions
Broken heart syndrome got its name from its primary cause—extreme emotional stress.
Friedemann Schaub, M.D., a cardiologist and molecular biology specialist says that major, life-changing events (such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, even winning the lottery) can trigger stress hormones to flood a person’s body, causing their heart to go into a dangerous state of overdrive.
If exposed to elevated levels of stress hormones for too long, the heart becomes enlarged with blood and can no longer pump blood efficiently. “You’re hormones are essentially asking your heart to do the impossible. It’s the equivalent of running all-out on a treadmill for eight hours straight,” Schaub says.
Can you die from a broken heart? Continue reading to uncover the answer…
Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart: The Dangers of Broken Heart Syndrome originally appeared on AgingCare.com.
By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
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