Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Broken Heart - A True Clincal Diagnosis

(pictured - NOT the dog from this story. Yevgen Romanenko/Shutterstock)

Broken hearts are not just a cheap cliché used to write pop songs, there is actually some science behind this much-romanticized phenomenon. And it's not limited to humans either. Doctors in Texas have written a case report about Joanie Simpson, a 61-year-old woman who suffered from “broken-heart syndrome” following the death of her dog.

As explained in The New England Journal of Medicine, the grief-stricken woman was rushed to the emergency room after a sudden onset of chest pain and high blood pressure. At first, it looked like she might be having a heart attack. However, a coronary angiography X-ray revealed that her coronary arteries were in good shape. The doctors then followed up with an echocardiography, which revealed the typical signs of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, better known as broken-heart syndrome.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy occurs when your heart muscle becomes suddenly weakened. The word “Takotsubo” means “octopus trap” in Japanese, as the left ventricle of the heart changes into the shape of a bulging pot with a narrow neck, much like the pots traditionally used to capture octopus.

According to the American Heart Association, broken heart syndrome can be triggered by emotionally stressful events, such as the death of a loved one (yes, even pets). Last year, many speculated that the emotional toll of losing her daughter Carrie Fisher may have contributed to actress Debbie Reynolds' death. While we don't have all the facts in that situation, what we do know is that it's possible to experience a stress-induced heart event, even if you're otherwise healthy.
"I was close to inconsolable," Simpson told the Post about her Yorkie's death. "I really took it really, really hard."
While heart attacks and broken heart syndrome are very similar, the key difference between them is that those who suffer from a broken heart usually don't have the blocked arteries to show for it, according to the AHA.
These days, Simpson has recovered (and has a cat named Buster). She told the Post that she hasn't made the "right connection" with another dog yet, but is hopeful it will happen.
"It is heartbreaking," she told the Post of losing a beloved pet. "It is traumatic. It is all of the above. But you know what? They give so much love and companionship that I'll do it again."