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Protect Your Achey Breaky Heart

Relaxing-Heart-ActiviySarah fell to the ground holding her heart. She thought she had a heart attack but after a day in the hospital she was diagnosed with something else. Broken Heart Syndrome. Doctors are now realizing that emotional stress can stimulate a potentially life threatening stress induced myopathy that mimics a heart attack. When doctors noticed numerous cases of people who were grieving were suffering from what they thought were heart attacks, doctors begin to take a closer look. What they found was remarkable.

They realized that traumatic events like the loss of a loved one can cause what they are now calling ‘Broken Heart’ Syndrome.  In fact, after a study of 2,000 patients with heart complications they found that the risk of a heart complications is twenty-one times higher the day after losing a loved one and six times higher during that first week. Additionally, they found that Broken Heart Syndrome is 7.5 times more likely in women than men.

Stress can cause a plethora of physical complications for your body from complications to your reproductive, digestive and immune system and can lead to serious illness if left untreated. Now you can add heart complications to that list. Triggered by an adrenaline rush after suffering severe emotional distress, Broken Heart Syndrome temporarily constricts the heart’s arteries and interferes with the heart’s pumping ability causing chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, arm pain and a general weakness.Symptoms that are almost identical to a heart attack.

These symptoms are so similar that most ER Doctors and Paramedics can’t diagnose these cardiac complications without ordering an Angiogram.  In a recent study, they found that up to 5% of all heart attacks diagnosed in women are actually Broken Heart Syndrome. However, unlike a heart attack, there is regularly no long-term damage and a speedy recovery.

While some doctors are dumbfounded about this trivial connection between emotions well being and physical heart complication, Epperson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness is not. “We know that many medical problems — asthma, autoimmune diseases, depression, gastro upset — can be caused by stress, so why wouldn’t something like a heartbreaking loss ‘break’ your heart?” And just like taking a vitamin, exercising or eating healthy, you need to take care of your emotional well-being as well.

Like an infected wound, neglecting your mental health could lead to serious complications so whether it’s reading a book, fishing, taking a walk or turning off your cell phone to disconnect from the world for twenty minutes a day, relaxing and reducing your stress could save your life. In fact, 54% of workers are concerned about health problems due to stress and according to a study by Yale University, 29% of workers feel they are ‘very stressed’ at work. There are hundreds of techniques to help you handle your stress so the best advice is to talk to one of our Doctors and let them know how you are feeling.

If you would like to learn more you can read an interview with Dr. Ilan Wittstein, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital who helped discover Broken Heart Syndrome.


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