What is broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome: Overview

With broken heart syndrome, the heart has trouble pumping blood normally. A chamber of the heart swells up like a small balloon. Broken heart syndrome is also called takotsubo (say "TACK-uh-zoo-boh") syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy (say "kar-dee-oh-my-AWP-uh-thee").

Broken heart syndrome is often triggered by great emotional stress, such as grief after losing a loved one. It can also be triggered by physical stress, such as having a serious health problem. Sometimes the cause is not known.

Broken heart syndrome causes the same symptoms as a heart attack, but it's not a heart attack. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Sudden chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fainting.

Other symptoms may include a pounding or fast heartbeat, nausea, or vomiting.

A heart attack is caused by a blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries. These arteries supply the heart muscle with blood. But broken heart syndrome isn't caused by blocked coronary arteries.

You will likely take medicines for a short time to help your heart muscle recover. These may include medicines that make it easier for your heart to pump blood. Some people may need to take medicines long-term.

In most people, the heart starts pumping normally again within a few days or weeks. For some people, it can take several months to return to normal.

What can you expect when you have broken heart syndrome?

In most people, the heart starts pumping normally again within a few days or weeks. For some people, it can take several months to return to normal.

Most people who have an episode of broken heart syndrome don't have another. But there is a small chance that broken heart syndrome can happen again.

Sometimes the condition can lead to more serious problems such as heart failure or heart rhythm problems.

What are the symptoms of broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome causes the same symptoms as a heart attack, but it's not a heart attack. Some of the most common symptoms are sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting. Other symptoms may include a pounding or fast heartbeat, nausea, or vomiting.

How is broken heart syndrome treated?

You may be in intensive care for a short time. You may stay in the hospital for a few days. After you leave the hospital, you may have some more tests. These tests are to check how well your heart is pumping blood.

You will likely take medicines for a short time to help your heart muscle recover. These may include medicines that make it easier for your heart to pump blood. Some people may need to take medicines long-term.

How is broken heart syndrome diagnosed?

Because symptoms are the same as a heart attack, you probably had tests to make sure you did not have a heart attack. These tests include:

  • Blood tests, to look for damage to the heart muscle.
  • Imaging tests such as an echocardiogram (ultrasound). These tests can show if a heart chamber has swelled up. They can also show if your heart is pumping normally.
  • An electrocardiogram (EKG), to measure your heart's electrical activity.
  • A cardiac catheterization. Results from the other tests may have looked like you had a heart attack. If so, you probably had a cardiac catheterization. This test lets your doctor look at the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart. It helps check to see if your coronary arteries are blocked. It also helps check on how well your heart is pumping blood.

How can you care for yourself when you have broken heart syndrome?

Follow a heart-healthy lifestyle. Eat heart-healthy foods. Limit alcohol, sugar, and sodium. Be active. Stay at a weight that's healthy for you. Try to get enough sleep. If you smoke, try to quit. Manage other health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. And take your medicines as prescribed.

What is broken heart syndrome?

With broken heart syndrome, the heart has trouble pumping blood normally. A chamber of the heart swells up like a small balloon. Broken heart syndrome is also called takotsubo (say "TACK-uh-zoo-boh") syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy (say "kar-dee-oh-my-AWP-uh-thee").

Broken heart syndrome causes the same symptoms as a heart attack, but it's not a heart attack. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Sudden chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fainting.

Other symptoms may include:

  • A pounding or fast heartbeat.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.

A heart attack is caused by a blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries. These arteries supply the heart muscle with blood. But broken heart syndrome isn't caused by blocked coronary arteries.

Broken heart syndrome is often triggered by great emotional stress, such as grief after losing a loved one. It can also be triggered by physical stress, such as having a serious health problem.

Sometimes it's not known what triggers broken heart syndrome.

Broken heart syndrome: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms, such as:
    • New or increased shortness of breath.
    • New or worse swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
    • Sudden weight gain, such as more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
    • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded or like you may faint.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
    • Not sleeping well. Shortness of breath wakes you at night. You need extra pillows to prop yourself up to breathe easier.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.