Achy Hearts Are Breaky

'Broken heart syndrome' caused by emotional, physical stress
By Emily Rauhala,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2010 5:00 AM CST
Achy Hearts Are Breaky
Turns out hearts are in fact achy and breaky.   (Shutter Stock)

Turns out hearts can actually "break" for those who suffer meltdowns. Doctors have identified a mysterious ailment called broken-heart syndrome that mimics heart attacks but is not connected to coronary artery disease. It's "a heart attack which is triggered by stress rather than by a blocked artery," one cardiologist tells the Wall Street Journal. Stress can include both emotional triggers, such as the death of a loved one, or physical trauma, like migraines or respiratory distress.

Stress causes a surge of adrenaline to overwhelm the heart, paralyzing the left ventricle and sending the heart into a kind of "hibernation." Because the cells are merely frozen, not dead, little tissue is lost. The syndrome is relatively uncommon, accounting for an estimated 2% of people—and about 6% of women—who are diagnosed with a heart attack. About 90% of broken-heart syndrome patients are post-menopausal women.


(Read more heart stories.)

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