A broken heart is more than a colorful phrase that follows a relationship or a death of a loved one. In the medical field, it is a condition that can be brought on by stressful situations, illness, or surgery.
Earlier this week, former President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized following the funeral of his wife, Barbara.
Doctors told multiple media outlets he had an infection that spread to his blood. Though the 41st President of the United States has not been diagnosed with Broken Heart Syndrome, also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, the signs and symptoms are certainly similar, some experts agree.
Dr. Sharon Choi, a cardiologist with Baylor Scott and White Medical Center — Waxahachie, stated Broken Heart Syndrome mimics a heart attack. Patients come in with symptoms of a heart attack such as chest pains and sweating.
“Really in every way, it looks like they have had a heart attack, but then when we go into to look at the vessels there are no blockages,” Choi said. “Sometimes there is plaque depending what the risk factors are. Generally speaking, there is no blockage and nothing to explain why it happened.”
According to the American Heart Association website, tests show dramatic changes in rhythm and blood substances that are typical of a heart attack, but unlike a heart attack, there is no evidence of blocked heart arteries in broken heart syndrome. In this condition, a part of a person’s heart is temporarily enlarged and does not pump efficiently. The rest of the heart during the cardiac episode functions normally or with more forceful contractions. The reoccurrence rate for this condition is low, but in some cases, it can be fatal.
The Mayo Clinic website states some of the risk factors connected with Broken Heart Syndrome include having a history of neurological conditions such as a head injury or seizure disorders, a previous or current psychiatric disorder, sex, and if a person is over the age of 50.
The Clinic also notes that some of the other potential triggers include receiving a medical diagnosis, domestic abuse, losing or winning money, strong arguments, job loss, divorce, and physical stressors like a car accident or major surgery.
Choi stated after this cardiac event that medical care and medications can be used to reverse the effects of the heart condition. A person can recover between 24-48 hours or sometimes a little longer.
She noted women are more prevalent for this condition, but men can face this as well.
Choi explained when she councils patients who are recovering from this condition she tells them to stay on the medication they are taking, but advocates finding a healthy to reduce stress.
“One of the things that have come to the news a lot lately is meditation and mindfulness. It is something that took me a little while to come on board with, but the number of studies that I have seen with it is pretty convincing,” Choi said. “So part of the stress reduction techniques that I tell my patients about are things like that. Although you may not be able to change the environment you are in you can sometimes change how you respond to that enjoinment.”
Choi continued, stating adopting an active lifestyle also place apart not only in recovery but a person’s total health.
“If I tell my patients that you should be doing this much exercise a week I do that myself too. The thing that I often tell them is you may feel like you are too busy, but a lot of that is the dread of doing the activity,” Choi explained. “You know what you can do is you can walk briskly for five minutes three times a week.”
Choi added by incorporating this into your life it then becomes something you end up enjoying.