Can we suffer from a broken heart? Well it has been confirmed - we can.
Suffering from a ''broken heart'' is a phrase used to describe extreme emotional stress experienced by a person due to the loss of, or harm to a loved one. Folk wisdom has always suggested that there may be a relationship between extreme emotional stress and the effect this has on the heart and this has now been confirmed by researchers.
First described by Japanese doctors, it was called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy in 1991. They described a condition brought on by severe stress which caused symptoms similar to that of a heart attack. X-rays of the chest taken at the time indicated that the heart muscle was enlarged and 'pot' shaped. Takotsubo refers to a pot which Japanese fisherman use to capture octopuses. Hence the name. Maybe this also points to the fact that someone with a 'big' heart is more likely to suffer more!!
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in their studies published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine describe a condition similar to that of a heart attack but less severe. When someone experiences severe emotional stress, large amounts of stress steroids and chemicals are released into the bloodstream which temporary 'stuns' the heart.
The symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack, such as severe chest pain, breathlessness and fluid in the lungs. If the patient suffers from previous medical conditions this may take a sinister turn and trigger an onset of an actual heart attack.
It was found that the condition affects mostly middle-aged women without any previous medical history.
This may explain why the' faint hearted' are more affected by bad news.
Although the symptoms are similar to that of having a heart attack the good news is that the effects are mostly temporary (good news for those who say they will never recover after a broken heart!) and there is no permanent damage to the heart although it was noted to be enlarged on scans.
It was also surprising to see that there were no abnormalities in the tests carried out at the time, such as blood tests, indicating damage to the heart muscle. Patients make a complete recovery. No specific treatment is required other than supportive therapy and reassurance. However, if the patient previously suffered from a heart condition, this may trigger further events.
So remember, if you experience heart ache after a particularly bad experience, seek medical advice urgently to rule out anything sinister. And think twice before you deliver bad news.