Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Is Your Heart Broken, Physically?

When tragedy strikes, we often say that we’re heart broken; we use the expression as a metaphor to express the anguish that we feel. But the phrase can also be taken literally, as emotional pain can cause physical heart break as well.

Broken Heart Syndrome stems from your heart’s physical reaction to stress. It mimics the symptoms of a heart attack and is most prevalent in women.

Dr. Vinay Mehta, a cardiologist at Buffalo Heart Group and an affiliate of Catholic Health, discussed Broken Heart Syndrome on Winging It! on CW 23. You can watch the interview below.


Symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome

Common symptoms are similar to a heart attack and include:
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Squeezing sensation in chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in shoulders, neck, jaw, arms or upper body
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Nausea

Do You Have Broken Heart Syndrome?

"Broken Heart Syndrome is virtually indistinguishable from a heart attack," says Dr. Mehta.

In Broken Heart Syndrome, results from blood tests, EKGs and ultrasounds will all be consistent with a heart attack.

Dr. Mehta says that the only way to distinguish between Broken Heart Syndrome and a heart attack is to do a coronary angiogram, where doctors will look at the heart's blood vessels. If you’re having a heart attack, the blood vessels will be blocked. If you have Broken Heart Syndrome, the blood vessels will be clean.

The Dangers of a Broken Heart

"The heart shows significant dysfunction in Broken Heart Syndrome," says Dr. Mehta. "The pump function of the heart decreases significantly from the normal output."

Broken Heart Syndrome can lead to other dangerous heart conditions, such as arrhythmia, an irregular heart beat, and blood clots.

"About 90-95% of the patients, if not more, recover," says Dr. Mehta. "But you should still contact your doctor, because you cannot tell whether it is a heart attack, which needs immediate treatment, or Broken Heart Syndrome."

How to Treat a Broken Heart

"Patients should be admitted to the hospital, observed and possibly supported by pain medications and intravenous fluids," says Dr. Mehta.

Broken Heart Syndrome is only temporary and usually heals with 2 to 3 weeks with treatment.

"A broken heart heals itself if given enough time and support," says Dr. Mehta.


Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women. If you have any symptoms of a heart attack or Broken Heart Syndrome, you should seek medical treatment immediately.

Click here for information about cardiac services at Catholic Health.

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