What is broken heart syndrome? Symptoms of takotsubo cardiomyopathy, how does it happen and can it heal

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen discovered the link in the largest study of its kind

Broken heart syndrome is estimated to impact 5,000 people in the UK every year.

The medical condition which is also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy is usually triggered after an emotional or physical event.

It often occurs after the death of a loved one, which is why it has been dubbed broken heart syndrome.

Symptoms can mirror that of a heart attack, but the person’s arteries are not blocked.

The cause of the condition is still not fully known, but a team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen have made a few startling discoveries.

Here’s everything you need to know about broken heart syndrome.

What is cardiomyopathy?

Broken heart syndrome is a condition that causes chest pain and breathlessness similar to that of a heart attack.

Broken heart syndrome is also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy (Pic: Getty Images)

It is usually caused by significant physical or emotional stress such as the death of a loved one or a traumatic accident.

The condition causes the heart to become weakened and is also known by the name Takosubo cardiomyopathy.

It more commonly impacts women and can have serious consequences if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of takotsubo cardiomyopathy?

The condition is usually triggered by an emotional or physical stressor.

According to Hopkins Medicine these stressors can include:

  • Grief
  • Fear
  • Extreme anger
  • Surprise
  • High fever
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Difficulty breathing (such as an asthma attack or emphysema)
  • Significant bleeding
  • Low blood sugar

Symptoms of broken heart syndrome are very similar to that of a heart attack, but the person’s arteries are not blocked.

People will experience chest pain, breathlessness, sweating and dizziness.

The symptoms can kick in minutes or even after the stressful event has occurred.

However Hopkins Medicine states that 30% of patients who experience broken heart syndrome have not actually experienced a stressful trigger.

What have the researchers discovered?

The researchers at University of Aberdeen have compiled the largest study of its kind into the condition.

They made a startling discovery regarding changes in the brain that are responsible for the heart and emotions.

Dr Hilal Khan, clinical research fellow explained: "For years we’ve known that there is a link between the brain and the heart, but the role this plays in Takotsubo has been a mystery.

"For the first time we’ve revealed changes in the brain regions that are responsible for controlling the heart and emotions.

"Further work will be required to determine if these changes cause Takotsubo syndrome."

The findings were presented at the British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester.

Associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, Professor James Leiper said: "This research is a significant step forward in our understanding of how the brain and the heart are intricately linked in this enigmatic condition, and how an emotional event can lead to heart failure."

Can you heal from broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome can be life threatening as it can cause short-term heart muscle failure and heart rhythm abnormalities.

The good news is that people who experience it generally make a full recovery and will be at low risk for the condition to occur again.