Stress Cardiomyopathy or as it is more poetically known as, ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ (BHS) has been in the news of late. Broken Heart Syndrome is a condition in which people suffer from severe cardiac symptoms similar to that of a heart attack. These symptoms normally follow an episode of extreme stress or emotional trauma. Reported cases of BHS have been triggered by events such as the unexpected news of a death, robbery, and domestic abuse. There have been cases where a surprise party brought on the symptoms as well!
Symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome are very similar to that of a heart attack and may include:
However, further testing indicates that the changes on the patient’s ECGs are not the same as those with a heart attack. Similarly, enzyme levels that are normally elevated due to a heart attack are not found after a stress cardiomyopathy attack. Whereas patients with this form of cardiomyopathy do have a weakened heart and muscles that do not work efficiently, there is no occlusion of the coronary arteries are normally seen in heart patients.
That said these are all serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention so its important that you call 911 as soon as they occur irrespective of whether you think it may be stress related or not.
The exact cause of BHS still remains unknown. Experts blame this extreme reaction of the heart as an unusual response to the flood of stress hormones such as adrenalin after any form of emotional stress or trauma. This excess of adrenalin is believed to ‘stun’ the heart and cause the debilitating symptoms that follow.
The belief that severe emotional stress may increase your chances of heart disease has always been a notion and scientific evidence to prove this fact is hard to come by. Recent research does indicate that under certain circumstances and in certain kinds of people, emotional stress may contribute to heart disease. Stress cardiomyopathy can be triggered off by strong reactions to emotions such as fear, rage, or grief.
Some potential triggers may be:
Stress cardiomyopathy requires immediate care and medical attention.
Treatment is similar to that given for a heart attack until further tests confirm the diagnosis. Most patients are given medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or beta-blockers to ease the stress on the heart. Along with these, the patient is also given water pills or diuretics to get rid of the build up excess fluid in the body. As the stress hormone levels fall, the heart resumes its normal functioning capacity and begins to pump blood properly once again.
Stress cardiomyopathy attacks require hospitalization, as symptoms have to be monitored closely to ensure proper recovery. Other procedures used to treat a heart attack such as balloon angioplasty and stent placement, or even heart surgery, are not used for Broken Heart Syndrome as there are no artery blockages to deal with.
Most cases of stress cardiomyopathy require urgent and aggressive intensive care. However with the appropriate treatment, the survival rate is high and the condition tends to resolve completely within a few weeks. Many patients fully recover from stress cardiomyopathy within one to two months. It is important that you follow the instructions and guidelines of your doctor at all times.More articles from the Health Articles Category