Stress cardiomyopathy (also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy or ‘broken heart’ syndrome) is brought on by stressful life events such as the death of a loved one or losing a job. The heart does not contract properly and becomes very weak. Its symptoms can mimic a heart attack. It is transient (temporary) and patients’ symptoms invariably improve over a period of time.
Symptoms of stress cardiomyopathy mimic those of a heart attack. Patient would experience sudden chest pain and shortness of breath.
The exact cause of broken heart syndrome is unknown. It is generally thought to be caused by a surge of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, that suddenly causes the heart to temporarily enlarge, decrease the pumping action and possibly restrict one or more of the coronary arteries.
Stress cardiomyopathy is different from a heart attack. A heart attack is usually caused by acute cessation of blood flow in one of the coronary arteries due to blood clots formed on a ruptured cholesterol plaque. In stress cardiomyopathy, the arteries are not blocked but blood flow in the arteries may be reduced.
Until the doctor is able to ascertain that one is having stress cardiomyopathy, the management strategy would follow that of a heart attack. Procedure like angioplasty used for a heart attack is not necessary as there is no blockage. However, a coronary angiography is often performed as heart attack is usually the initial diagnosis. Once verified that it is due to stress cardiomyopathy, doctors may prescribe medications to help the heart pump better until the heart recovers.
Read more about stress cardiomyopathy here.
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