T + T – normal size
On May 26, Joe Garcia collapsed after learning of his wife’s death in a horrific school shooting in Texas a few days earlier, and died in what doctors described as a possible example of broken heart syndrome, according to NBC News.
When someone experiences severe physical or emotional stress, they develop a cardiomyopathy known as “broken heart syndrome”.
Broken heart syndrome is often associated with stress or pain after a traumatic event, such as a separation or loss of a family member, which rapidly weakens the heart’s left ventricle. However, some people do not know that broken heart syndrome can actually be fatal.
This syndrome is a temporary heart condition often caused by stress or extreme emotions, and is also known as takotsubo syndrome.
While the exact cause remains a medical mystery, the Mayo Clinic states that increased stress hormones such as adrenaline “may temporarily damage some people’s hearts.”
Ultimately, broken heart syndrome temporarily disrupts the heart’s normal pumping function.
The condition is characterized by a sudden temporary weakness of the heart muscles, which causes the left ventricle of the heart to swell from the bottom, while the neck remains narrow.
This results in a takotsubo octopus trap-like shape, from which the syndrome is named.
There are two main signs that people should look for when it comes to broken heart syndrome.
These signs include chest pain or shortness of breath, but without severe blockages in the coronary arteries. Long-term or persistent chest pain can also be a sign of a heart attack, so it is recommended that you seek help immediately.
In some cases, this condition can lead to cardiogenic shock, an often fatal condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
To many people, dying from a broken heart often seems illusory, but experts say it can happen.
“It’s a classic case of broken heart syndrome from what’s been described,” says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
However, Bhatt notes, it’s impossible to tell if it’s broken heart syndrome or a heart attack without an X-ray or autopsy.
While it may take two to three months to recover after a heart attack, doctors say patients usually recover from broken heart syndrome within one to six weeks, and may fully recover within 1-2 months.
Treatment for broken heart syndrome will depend largely on the patient’s symptoms. Doctors can often recommend medications such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and diuretics. They can also give aspirin to patients who show plaque buildup in the arterial walls.