Doctors warn of rare but real condition called broken heart syndrome

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Doctors are warning of a rare but real condition that could turn fatal.

Cardiologists at St. Vincent Heart Hospital say emotional and physical stressors can lead to something called broken heart syndrome. While many often think they’re having a heart attack, broken heart syndrome occurs when the heart’s pumping is temporarily interrupted in one area of the organ. Because blood flow is restricted there, the other portion of the heart works harder with often more contractions.

“About 30 percent had some sort of emotional distress so either depression, anxiety or the death of a loved one, a breakup," said Dr. Rafael Garcia-Cortes. “Another third had physical stress, meaning they were sick. They had pneumonia.”

Garcia-Cortes admitted that he has diagnosed the condition before.

“You are able to treat. That usually involves monitoring, medications by mouth and support while the patients improve,” he said.

Cardiologists say while broken heart syndrome comes quickly, patients can typically recover within one to two months.

Garcia-Cortes said the syndrome is prevalent in certain groups, with 90% of cases occurring in females 65 years and older.

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