Can a Broken Heart Be Bad for Your Health?

There may be something to the image of Cupid piercing a heart with his pointed arrow. A broken heart doesn’t just wreak havoc on your emotions, it can be physically damaging as well.

Broken Heart Syndrome (BHS) is a condition first identified and described by Japanese physicians in the 1990s. The physicians called the syndrome “Takotsubo” or “fishing pot” for the unusual shape of the left ventricle of BHS patients that looked similar to a Japanese fishing pot.

Although BHS is rare, experts, including Ronald Conner, MD, with ProMedica Physicians Cardiology, believe the condition exists.  “BHS occurs in people who have dealt with a tremendous loss, a large change in life or spiritual incident,” states Dr. Conner. “Some physicians are skeptical of this syndrome, thinking that patients have had a heart attack and that arteries have cleared up by the time tests are administered. But many medical professionals, including myself, believe BHS actually exists.”

Heart Broken or Broken Heart
“You will know if you are experiencing BHS,” says Dr. Conner. “The presentation can be very profound and severe. The patient presents with symptoms of an acute heart attack. They may feel pressure and pain in the left side of the chest, fainting, profound breathlessness, low blood pressure, and sweating.

What causes it? “It is believed that BHS is caused by increased amounts of hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline that are produced by the body to cope with intense stress. ‘Too much of a good thing’ applies here,” says Dr. Conner.

Physicians will determine if patients have experienced a heart attack or BHS through a heart catheterization. Usually patients must contend with congestive heart failure following a heart attack. The hearts of BHS patients, however, will quickly return to normal. “One of the most fascinating things about BHS is that a large part of the heart is involved in the incident, but the damage is not lasting,” states Dr. Conner.

Treatment for a Broken Heart
Treatment for BHS includes prescribed medications similar to those given to patients with weak hearts. The good news is that BHS comes on suddenly and leaves quickly without lasting physical damage. “BHS is normally a one-time thing,” states Dr. Conner. “Patients tend to have a complete and fast recovery.”

Since there is no way to differentiate between BHS and a catastrophic heart attack, go immediately to a medical facility if you are experiencing symptoms. Do not attempt to drive yourself . And, if possible, do not give the keys to someone who broke your heart.