A broken heart isn’t just a condition conjured up by romantic novelists – it’s a real medical complaint.
Its correct medical term is Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, and it mimics most of the symptoms of a heart attack. And just like the broken heart of the novels, it happens after some stressful and upsetting event.
The condition was first recognised by Japanese researchers around 15 years ago, and now researchers at the Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital in America have shed new light on it after studying 70 patients with the complaint.
Around two-thirds of the patients had suffered very stressful physical or emotional events, such as bad news, a domestic argument, or a car accident. They also showed symptoms of a heart attack, such as chest pains and shortness of breath. Of these, around 20 per cent were critically ill and needed emergency treatment before fully recovering.
Researchers reckon the condition is brought on by a sudden release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which causes the heart to temporarily weaken or become ‘stunned’.
But as opposed to the novel, most people in real life recover from a broken heart.
(Source: American Journal of Cardiology, 2009; 103: 1015-19).