WEDNESDAY, Oct. 13, 2021 (American Heart Association News) – Broken heart syndrome, a life-threatening disease whose symptoms mimic a heart attack, is on the rise, new research shows that shows steepest increases in women over 50. years and older.
Published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study looked at 135,463 cases of broken heart syndrome in US hospitals from 2006 to 2017. It found a steady annual increase in women and men, with women accounting for 88.3% of cases.
The overall increase was not unexpected as the disease is increasingly recognized among medical professionals, said Dr. Susan Cheng, lead author of the study. But the researchers were surprised to find that the disease rate was at least six to 12 times higher in women aged 50 to 74 than in younger men or women.
“These skyrocketing rates are both intriguing and concerning,” said Cheng, director of the Healthy Aging Research Institute in the Cardiology Department at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
The disease, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, has been studied for decades in Japan and elsewhere. But it wasn’t well known internationally until 2005, when the New England Journal of Medicine published research on it.
Triggered by physical or emotional stress, broken heart syndrome causes the heart’s main pumping chamber to temporarily enlarge and pump poorly. Patients experience chest pain and shortness of breath, symptoms similar to those of a heart attack.
If they survive the initial stage of the disease, people can often recover within days or weeks. However, the longer term effects are still being investigated. Despite an apparent recovery in heart muscle function, some studies show that people with broken heart syndrome are at increased risk for future cardiovascular events.
Cheng said more research is needed to understand the risks and reasons why broken heart syndrome appears to disproportionately affect middle-aged to older women.
The end of menopause may play a role, she said, but so can an increase in overall stress.
âAs we get older and take on more responsibility in life and work, we experience higher levels of stress,â she said. “And with the increasing digitization of all aspects of our lives, environmental stressors have also intensified.”
The study comes at a time when public health organizations have deepened the mind-heart-body connection. In January, the American Heart Association released a scientific statement on the link, saying there were “clear associations” between psychological health and cardiovascular disease risk.
While the study was carried out before the rise of COVID-19, Cheng said the stress of the pandemic has likely led to an increase in the number of recent cases of broken heart syndrome, many of which have gone undiagnosed. .
“We know there were profound effects on the heart-brain connection during the pandemic. We’re at the tip of the iceberg in terms of measuring what it is,” she said.
Dr Erin Michos, who helped draft the AHA’s scientific statement but was not involved in the new research, said the findings underscore how important it is for doctors to screen patients for problems. mental health.
She also called for more research to understand a disease about which little is known.
âWe should all be asking ourselves why its incidence is increasing,â said Michos, associate professor of medicine and director of women’s heart health at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The study, she said, serves as a powerful reminder that everyone needs to be proactive about their mental health, especially those with cardiovascular risks.
âWe cannot avoid all stress in life, but it is important for patients to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Some strategies include mindfulness meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep. and building social relationships for support systems, âMichos said. . “For patients with significant psychological stress, a referral to a clinical psychologist or other clinician with expertise in mental health is recommended.”
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By Thor Christensen