How does heartbreak affect a man

Broken Heart: When the soul paralyzes the heart

Status: 07.06.2019 11:29 a.m. | archive
Severe emotional stress can also trigger symptoms such as heart attacks in men.

The heart is strongly influenced by emotions, expressions such as "palpitations", "heartache" and "broken heart" stand for. When excited, blood pressure and heart rate rise, the heart muscle pumps harder, the heartbeat becomes noticeable as a throbbing. This can make you sick in the long run: Constant stress can lead to inflammation of the heart arteries, blood clots or heart attack.

Women are affected more often than men

Particularly strong emotional stress such as grief or lovesickness can even lead to an acute heart condition, the so-called broken heart syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy or tako-tsubo cardiomyopathy. Broken heart syndrome is more common in women - it accounts for about six percent of emergencies. Women are often affected after the menopause.

Strong stress paralyzes the heart muscle

Broken heart syndrome is often triggered by strong emotions, for example a death in the family, a separation or experiences of violence. But happy events can also trigger broken heart syndrome - they lead to an excessive release of the stress hormone adrenaline from the adrenal gland.

When the positive or negative stress overwhelms the heart, the heart muscle can be paralyzed. It hardly pumps any more and inflates like a balloon at the top. This special form of the heart muscle reminded Japanese doctors of a clay squid trap (Tako Tsubo), which is why the disease is also known as Tako Tsubo cardiomyopathy.

Symptoms like a heart attack

The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are the same as those of an acute heart attack:

  • Chest tightness ("elephant sits on the chest")
  • massive shortness of breath
  • Chest pain radiating to the left arm or back, shoulders or lower jaw
  • especially in women: nausea and upper abdominal discomfort

The laboratory values ​​and ECG curves can also indicate a heart attack.

Anyone who suffers acutely from such complaints should dial the emergency number 112 immediately and not drive to the hospital themselves. If complaints occur regularly during exertion, this should be examined by a cardiologist as soon as possible.

Differences from a heart attack

In most cases of broken heart syndrome, a cardiac catheter examination does not reveal any relevant constrictions in the coronary arteries. The heart is well supplied with blood. On the other hand, a flaccid area, paralysis of the heart muscle, is often noticeable in the heart ultrasound.

Consequences of Broken Heart Syndrome

The broken heart syndrome is anything but harmless, in the acute phase the "sham infarction" is just as dramatic as a real one. Every 20th patient dies and every 10th patient suffers from so-called cardiogenic shock. This means that the complication rate during the so-called acute phase is just as high as with an acute heart attack. The heart's pumping capacity is severely impaired, and cardiac arrest is threatened. Even if the heart recovers quickly on its own, those affected must be monitored in the intensive care unit for a few days, as dangerous cardiac arrhythmias or tears in the heart muscle can occur.

Treatment is designed to prevent relapse

Broken heart syndrome usually has no consequences. However, 15 to 20 percent of those affected relapse. To be on the safe side, doctors therefore prescribe drugs that reduce the risk. Beta blockers are often prescribed permanently. Experts take a critical view of this, because studies have not shown beta blockers to be helpful. Regular exercise also protects the heart from dangerous stress attacks. In their statistics, scientists have also found indications that those affected with broken heart syndrome are more likely to develop cancer. They therefore recommend those affected to have the available preventive examinations carried out regularly.

Study gives indications of possible therapies

In a study, researchers from Göttingen discovered evidence of a genetic predisposition to Tako-Tsubo cardiomyopathy. They examined stem cells from Tako Tsubo patients, from which beating heart cells were grown. They found previously unknown signaling pathways (increased ß-adrenergic signal transmission) and a sensitivity to stress hormones (catecholamines) that was up to six times the normal value. In the opinion of the scientists, both findings are typical for broken heart patients and appear to occur more often in families. The findings could pave the way for the development of targeted therapies that can prevent broken heart syndrome.

Experts on the subject

Prof. Dr. Christoph Langer, specialist in cardiology, internal medicine
Cardiological-angiological practice
Heart Center Bremen
Senator-Weßling-Strasse 1A
28277 Bremen
(0421) 43 255-5

additional Information
German Heart Foundation V.
Bockenheimer Landstrasse 94-96
60323 Frankfurt am Main
(069) 955 12 80

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