Broken Heart Syndrome is the forgotten killer — doctors

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AMMAN — “My heart has been broken, literally”. This is how Faten, 27, summed up her recovery journey from a “broken heart syndrome,” a condition she was diagnosed with following a heated dispute with her ex-husband.اضافة اعلان

After the argument with her ex-husband, Faten said she felt an excruciating pain in her chest.

In spite of normal heart artery function, she was rushed to the hospital after experiencing symptoms consistent with a heart attack.

Doctors later revealed that she had a broken heart syndrome, as evidenced by an echocardiogram.

In an interview with the Jordan News Agency, Petra, Faten said that she had fully recovered from her illness after a three-month intensive treatment.

While the expression “my heart is broken” may be taken by some as merely a metaphor for an extreme emotional response, however, from a medical point of view, it may be a fairly accurate characterization of the effects of stressful situations on one’s body and mind.

The broken heart syndrome, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, can occur in otherwise healthy people. Takotsubo are octopus traps that look like the shape of a pot, which is how a stricken heart looks.

As a result of a hormonal shift in response to emotional stress, women are more vulnerable than men to experiencing sudden, severe chest pain.

According to, heartbreak can come in many forms, including the loss of a loved one, a separation of some kind, physical or otherwise, betrayal, or the rejection of romantic feelings.

Recently, a research by consultant cardiologist Dr Ayman Hammoudeh confirmed an increase in the prevalence of broken heart syndrome in Jordan, particularly during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hammoudeh said his study was the first of its kind in the Middle East, and it included 300 people who were not infected with the COVID-19 virus, but experienced acute heart attacks, broken heart syndrome, or sudden death.

People who had recently lost loved ones, their jobs or businesses, or felt a sudden onslaught of fear or anxiety, were particularly vulnerable to these stresses, the doctor said.

He explained that the broken heart syndrome affects people of all ages worldwide. He emphasized the significance of raising awareness about the condition, whose symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, so that people can get help sooner rather than later.

In his discussion of the body’s hormones, Hammoudeh highlighted the roles played by adrenaline and cortisol. Known as the “fight-or-flight” response hormones, they assist in a person’s ability to cope with stressful situations and increase heart rate.

He explained that if the hormones, especially adrenaline, are released into the bloodstream in large quantities due to external stress or intense mental exertion, it causes the coronary arteries to constrict, which in turn causes a sharp increase in blood pressure and heart rate.

He said such response can put people at risk from the syndrome, which can lead to a heart attack, and that in some cases the arteries will be unharmed, while the adrenaline rush will weaken and even damage the heart muscle.

The doctor emphasized that a sudden increase in adrenaline can be the result of mental exertion or extreme emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, or a happy or sad surprise.

The cardiologist added that physical stress, like sudden intense exercise, a very high temperature, asthma, severe weakness, shortness of breath, a stroke, or nervous spasms can all lead to broken heart syndrome.

Hammoudeh said that while mental and physical stress are common contributors, in 30 percent of cases the causes are unknown. He said this could be because the patient did not provide a clear answer when asked whether he had experienced an episode of anger, nervousness, or temperature, or because an unexpectedly high level of the adrenaline hormone was present.

The doctor said the symptoms of this syndrome are similar to those of a heart attack, including sudden onset of severe chest pain, sweating, shortness of breath, and dizziness, all of which require immediate transportation to the emergency room.

The doctor explained that during a cardiac catheterization, the arteries look fine, but the damage to the heart muscle is evident because the heart muscle swells and enlarges into a shape resembling a jar or net in the shape of the Japanese catch octopuses. Therefore, he added, the disease got its name from the Japanese word for jar or octopus net, Takotsubo.

He noted that while a small percentage of patients with this syndrome will develop severe complications like heart muscle weakness, fluid retention, fast heart rate, and death, the vast majority of patients will recover normal heart muscle function after treatment.

Because of their heightened sensitivity to emotional triggers, women are more likely to develop the disease than men, Hammoudeh said.

Women in their fifties or later are also at a higher risk, as it has been hypothesized that estrogen acts as a protective hormone for the heart, and that after menopause, the heart becomes more vulnerable to disease.

For the prevention of the disease, Hammoudeh recommended exercise, saying it helps reduce stress. He asserted the importance of “not getting angry or pushing ourselves beyond our limits physically, if we aren’t used to it, and learning to accept and cope with life’s challenges”.

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