What is broken heart syndrome?

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Broken heart syndrome, which is also known as stress cardiomyopathy, takotsubo cardiomyopathy or apical ballooning syndrome, is a temporary heart condition that is brought on by stressful situation or an extreme emotional period/event. This condition can also be brought on my serious physical illnesses or even surgery.

People that have broken heart syndrome will often experience sudden chest pain or believe that they are having a heart attack. Broken heart syndrome temporarily effects the normal pumping function within the heart; the rest of the heart will continue to function normally.

The symptoms associated with broken heart syndrome will usually go within a couple of days or weeks, and can be treated. As the symptoms often mimic a heart attack, it is common for people to feel chest pain and shortness of breath. If you are concerned it is always a good idea should seek medical attention to rule out a heart attack.

The exact cause of broken heart syndrome is unclear. It is thought to be linked to a sudden surge of hormones, such as adrenaline, that might temporarily affect the heart. As mentioned before, this condition is usually brought on by a physical or emotional event. This can include:

  • Death of a loved one

  • A serious medical diagnosis

  • Domestic abuse

  • Arguments

  • Job loss or instability

  • Divorce or a break up

  • Some prescription and illegal drugs

Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Sex – women are at a higher risk of developing broken heart syndrome

  • Age – people over the age of 50 are at a higher risk

  • Psychiatric conditions – if you have or have had a psychiatric condition, such as depression or anxiety, you have a higher chance of developing this condition

  • Neurological conditions – if you suffer from epilepsy or have had a head injury you are also at a higher risk

Most people with broken heart syndrome will not experience this condition more than once, however if you do it may be suggested that you go on long term medication to manage the symptoms. It is also important to try and minimise stress and recognise what may have.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.