Severe emotional stress can cause as much damage to the heart as a heart attack, British researchers claim.
At least 3,000 adults suffer from ‘broken heart syndrome’ in the UK every year, although the true number may be higher.
It is commonly triggered by a bereavement and occurs when the stress of the event causes the heart muscle to become stunned and weakened.
Until now doctors had presumed the damage was temporary and would heal with time. But researchers at the University of Aberdeen have discovered that the condition permanently weakens the heart, similar to a heart attack.
In the longest-running study so far, they followed 37 patients with ‘broken heart syndrome’ – or takotsubo – for an average of two years. Regular ultrasound and MRI scans of their hearts revealed the damage was present long after the event which triggered the condition. Many patients became tired very easily and were unable to do exercise.
The researchers said patients should be offered the same drugs as those whose hearts have been damaged by a heart attack. They presented their study at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Anaheim, California.
Dr Dana Dawson from the University of Aberdeen led the research and said that it ‘shows takotsubo needs to be treated with the same urgency as any other heart problem and patients may need ongoing treatment’.
Women are more commonly affected by the condition than men. It occurs when extreme stress causes the heart to become stunned, resulting in one of its main chambers – the left ventricle – changing shape.
Takotsubo, first identified in Japan in the 1990s, means octopus pot, which describes the deformed shape of the heart. Last year Swiss researchers found the condition was commonly triggered by happy events as well as sorrow.
Watching television can nearly double the chance of getting a blood clot, a study found. Even among those who get recommended levels of physical activity the risk of a clot was 1.8 times higher if people watch TV ‘very often’ compared to those who ‘never or seldom’ watch.
Dr Mary Cushman, co-author of the US study presented at an American Heart Association meeting, said: ‘Watching TV itself isn’t likely bad, but we tend to snack and sit still for prolonged periods.’