Broken heart syndrome is real, doctors can treat it

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The end of a relationship, divorce, the death of a loved one - emotionally charged events can take a toll on one's health, and in extreme cases, on the heart. (WLS)

The end of a relationship, divorce, the death of a loved one - emotionally charged events can take a toll on one's health, and in extreme cases, on the heart.

Broken heart syndrome is a real medical condition. While it can go away on its own, in some cases, once doctors diagnose it and treat it, patients can begin to heal.

Lesley Bartlett met the love of her life in the most unlikely of places. Peter was dressed like a clown.

"I think if you're looking for a partner, if anyone's looking for a partner, that is the most important thing, that he could make you laugh," said Bartlett.

Peter was diagnosed with lymphoma in his late 50s. Bartlett was his caregiver for more than a decade until he died.

"Sometimes I think I'd have a hole in my heart that's never going to get better," she said.

Bartlett kept busy and bottled up her grief.

"One afternoon, I really didn't feel well. I came home from work and thought I really ought to see the doctor. I felt sick," she said.

Cardiologist Rajesh Shah says intense emotion can lead to a condition that doctors commonly call broken heart syndrome.

"It is a pattern that we see where the base of the heart sort of squeezes, it's hyper-dynamic, but the rest of the heart looks like a balloon," Shah said.

Broken heart syndrome is more common in women than men. Patients are at risk for heart failure, fluid buildup and heart arrhythmia. It's not always easy for doctors to detect.

"It could take up to three months to get better, and to be patient, he was sure it would get better and he was right," Bartlett said.

Broken heart syndrome is also called stress-induced cardio-myopathy. Apical ballooning or Takotsubo syndrome because the heart takes on the shape of a Japanese vase.
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