Recent studies have shown that broken heart syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is on the rise. Here's what you need to know about this temporary heart condition.

Broken heart syndrome is usually triggered by extreme emotions and stressful situations, that is why it is named after a 'broken heart'. However, it can be brought on by physical illness, injury or surgery, and has similar symptoms as a heart attack. But while the symptoms of a heart attack are intense and persistent, those of a broken heart syndrome are not. As a matter of fact, the condition is treatable and temporarily affects just a part of the heart, often impeding the heart's pumping function. Symptoms are also reversible after a short while (days or weeks).


Heart attacks occur when there is a complete or almost complete blockage of an artery. However, with broken heart syndrome, there is a reduction in blood flow in the arteries instead of a blockage.


People who have a broken heart syndrome often experience:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating

These symptoms usually show up a few minutes or hours after a person goes through a stressful event.


Call 911 or emergency services if you experience these symptoms. Chest pain, in particular, is a sign of a heart attack.


broken heart syndrome

Emotional (grief, anger, surprise and stress) and physical (acute illness such as a COVID-19 infection, seizure and blood loss) stressors trigger a sudden surge of stress hormones such as adrenaline which can cause temporary damage to the heart.

In rare cases, certain medications such as nasal decongestants, emergency medications used to treat asthma, and illegal drugs such as cocaine can cause broken heart syndrome.

Risk Factors

A person is more at risk of broken heart syndrome based on three main risk factors:

  • Sex (broken heart syndrome affects more women done men)
  • Age (people above 50 years are more susceptible to the condition)
  • Mental health (people who are usually depressed or anxious are at greater risk)


    Broken heart syndrome is not as fatal as a heart attack. However, it can lead to complications such as:

    • Heart failure
    • Low blood pressure or hypotension
    • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
    • A buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema)
    • Blood clots in the heart when the heart muscle is weakened


      Broken heart syndrome can recur after another stressful event but this is very rare.

      Prevention and Treatment

      Most cases of broken heart syndrome without treatment can reverse after a few days or weeks. But where treatment is needed, a doctor would suggest something long-term such as beta-blockers or medications that prevent the damaging effects of stress hormones on the heart.

      Since stressful events cause the condition, taking the necessary precautions to manage stress, especially for people with chronic stress, can help put it at bay.


      Source: Mayo Clinic


      Disclaimer: The information shared by this post is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be professional medical advice nor a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician concerning anything you have read here. 



      By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team

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