When February rolls around each year, we’re bombarded with messages and sentiments of love. Couples, families, and friends begin to plan for Valentine’s Day, the day of love and dinner reservations are made, gifts are purchased, cards are written, and for those that are really lucky, the decadence of chocolate awaits. For some of us though, Valentine’s Day can be difficult if that special someone is no longer around. The overwhelming symbolism of love may cause them to reminisce and feel a deep pain. We know this pain, usually felt in the heart, as a broken heart, but in the medical world, this condition (yes, it’s a real medical condition) is known as acute stress cardiomyopathy.
Acute stress cardiomyopathy or “broken heart syndrome” is a relatively temporary heart condition brought on by stressful situations, such as a death of a loved one, or the complete shock of an unexpected breakup. The syndrome can lead to congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm abnormalities.
It’s been reported that patients, mostly women, have gone to the emergency room due to classic heart attack symptoms caused by the shock, but when doctors performed diagnostic tests, such as an electrocardiogram, the results tended to look very different from regular heart attack EKGs. Furthermore, subsequent tests showed that the heart tissue was not damaged at all.
Luckily, the symptoms of broken heart syndrome are treatable and the condition usually reverses itself in a matter of time. So if you’ve lost a loved one or experienced a break up recently, although Valentine’s Day may be more difficult than most days, fear not–the once a year holiday and the detriment of loneliness will pass. Perhaps take the holiday as an opportunity to do something healthy for yourself. Relax, or knock a few things off your to-do list, try out a new recipe or craft, or even use the holiday as an opportunity to remind a friend how much they mean to you.
Tell us, have you ever experienced the broken heart syndrome? If so, how’d you get through it?
- Dark Chocolate: The Heart Healthy Gift for Your Valentine
- Need a Good Reason to Enjoy Your Valentine’s Chocolate?
- Emory Healthcare Women’s Heart Care
- Emory Healthcare’s Heart Center