Don't let a broken heart hurt you

As the saying goes, ‘The heart was made to be broken’ and when the thorns of love prick it, there is bound to be heartbreak. Karan, a 22-year-old MBA student, suffered from a condition of extreme depression and mood swings. He suffered fatigue, insomnia and bouts of uncontrollable anger. His parents were worried, but they thought he was anxious because of  the upcoming examinations. However, after some days he experienced pain and tightness in the chest, after which an ECG was performed and symptoms similar to a heart attack were diagnosed. The cardiologist declared that Karan was suffering from broken heart syndrome. It turned out that he had recently undergone a break-up and was still in shock.

Sudden emotional stress can lead to severe but reversible heart muscle weakness that is similar to a classic heart attack. This condition is called Broken Heart Syndrome, also referred to as Stress Cardiomyopathy.

It is a temporary heart condition caused due to extreme and sudden emotional trauma, such as the death of a loved one, break-up, divorce, loss of job etc. Many people who suffer from broken heart syndrome may report sudden chest pain and think they’re having a heart attack.

The interesting fact is that 90 per cent of the cases of broken heart syndrome occur in women, and it is most frequently reported in middle-aged or elderly women.

However, broken heart syndrome has a stronger impact on men than on women.
It differs from a heart attack in the fact the arteries are not severely blocked and, most importantly, the heart tissue is not damaged.

If your doctor suspects you have broken heart syndrome, he/ she will use certain tests to make a diagnosis.

In addition to a standard physical exam, the doctor will want to know your medical history, especially whether you’ve ever had any symptoms of heart disease. The doctor will also want to know if you have experienced any major stresses.

Heard the alarm bells?

*People suffering from heartbreak syndrome find their body and mind reacting strangely even in normal situations

*They experience mood swings

*They avoid places and people that bring up sad memories

 Heartbreak songs make them weep uncontrollably

*They report a feeling of tightness in the chest, stomach ache and/or loss of appetite, partial or complete insomnia, apathy, loneliness, hopelessness, nausea and fatigue
In 80 per cent of the patients, symptoms disappear spontaneously after a couple of weeks, leaving no trace, while in other cases the symptoms persist.

Broken heart syndrome is treatable. At first, it’s treated like a heart attack would be until the diagnosis is clear. There is no specific therapy and most patients stay in hospital while they recover, which takes about a week.

Doctors usually prescribe blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers or diuretics.

It mimics a heart attack

Sudden emotional stress can result in symptoms that mimic a classic heart attack such as:

* Acute pain in the chest and shortness of breath, exactly like in a heart attack

*ECG also shows clinical changes seen typically in a heart attack. But ECG also reveals that the tip of the heart chamber bulges in BHS, unlike in a heart attack

* Angiogram and MRI scans show no blockages or irreversible muscle damage
In case of a heart attack, the heart cells die and this results in permanent damage to the heart muscles. But in the case of  broken heart syndrome, the heart cells go into a state of shock.

There’s a saying that no one ever died from a broken heart, but science shows it can still do a lot of damage.

If you get chest pain or shortness of breath after a stressful event, seek medical assistance immediately.

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