Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Broken Heart Syndrome

I was watching TV at the gym (can't remember exactly which tabloid show it was-- you know, I've got the earphones in blaring music and I'm trying to read subtitles while running!) when a story comes on about a woman who can't remember her wedding day.

Ok-- well that's a teeny bit unusual. I'm surmising she must have been in a horrible car accident later that day or something.

No, nothing like that.

They go on to explain that this woman suffered from Broken Heart Syndrome for which my eyes roll several times around my skull as I'm sure this can't be a real medical thing. I mean, tabloid TV, she can't remember her wedding day, Broken Heart Syndrome-- they have totally made this up.

Evidently, they did not.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Broken Heart Syndrome is a "temporary heart condition brought on by stressful situations." Anyone who has been through planning and actually wedding someone knows how stressful that can be. Because of the release of all these stress (adrenaline) hormones, "the heart temporarily enlarges and doesn't pump well." What differentiates this from a normal heart attack is that the coronary arteries aren't blocked though the symptoms might be similar-- sudden onset of chest pain, difficulty breathing and weakness.

Other names it goes by:
  • Takotsubo Cardiomyopahy
  • Stress Cardiomyopathy
  • Stress-induced Cardiomyopathy
  • Apical Ballooning Syndrome 
It is treatable and symptoms reverse in a couple of weeks. In this woman's case, however, she suffered cardiac arrest. Her husband was able to revive her but she was comatose for approximately four days-- hence losing all her wedding memories.

Be careful next time you throw someone a surprise birthday party. Make sure their heart can take it.


  1. I'm pretty sure I had this years ago. Several months after I found out my husband of nearly 20 years was having an affair and I sort of stuffed all my emotions in an effort to keep family equalibrium. Ended up with chest pains, went to the doc, then to heart specialists, who declared my heart was functioning perfectly. They called it stress. Once I knew that if I didn't deal with my emotions, my body would do it for me, I was able to take action.

    1. That's a lot to have happen. I'm glad you're okay now.

  2. I've heard of this!! And your blog post title made me smile (gonna email you in a little :-) This has always fascinated me. But wow. How sad to not remember your wedding day. Stress can do so many bad things to the body. It's amazing how the body works to heal itself. Great post, Jordyn.

  3. My mom had this. Her heart actually changed shape to the "lobster pot" that is discussed in the literature. By the grace of God, it went back to normal. She'd never had any heart problems before she had a lot of stress on her from other people (a neighbor dying, her hair dresser in an abusive marriage and talking to Mom about what to do, my dad (her ex husband, but they'd been married 27 years) dying.) It was crazy and like you, I thought it was a joke when she said that is what the doctor diagnosed her with. Took between 6 mo and a year but her heart returned to normal shape and no further problems.

    1. How crazy! Nothing like the medical professional in the family to be like, "Oh, sure, mom." and then have it be a real thing! Glad she's okay now.

  4. This kind of happened to me a few years ago. A belived and revered aunt betrayed me in a very un Christlike manner, causing me horrible emotional pain. I began having chest pains. My husband insisted I go to the doctor, who decided to do a stress test because of my age. It was normal and he sat down with us and wanted to knw what was causing me so much stress. After hearing about what happened, he said I had to get all this negativity out of my life before it caused me more problems. Sadly, I have no more contact with my aunt but God has given me peace.