I never thought I would tell you this, until I read an article about a doctor at the University of Arkansas who treats women with “broken heart syndrome.”
The classic case is “a woman who has just lost her husband.” That’s what Dr. Mariell Jessup, a University of Pennsylvania heart failure specialist believes.
The first weeks after my husband passed away were so filled; there was the memorial service, endless business with the house, property, bank and credit accounts. Life was a whirlwind with lots of people around.
Heart Myocardium (Heart Muscle) and Coronary Artery Diagram
Once everyone was gone and I was alone a physical reaction set in; shortness of breath, dizzy to the point of faintness, severe pain in my chest. It frightened me. One day I was so sick I went to our doctor; she knew right away what was wrong … my broken heart.
Dr. Abhishek Deshmukh, the doctor in Arkansas, said: “I was very curious why only women were having this,” so he did the first extensive study of the problem and reported his results at an American Heart Association conference in Florida.
He used a federal data base with 1,000 hospitals and 6,229 cases which considered smoking, high blood pressure and other factors. The doctor found that women are 7.5 times more likely to suffer from “broken heart” syndrome.
It’s three times more common in women over 55 (me), and younger women are 9.5 times more likely to suffer the condition than men the same age.
It comes down to this: a woman’s heart breaks easier than a man.
One theory is that hormones play a role. Another is that men have more adrenaline receptors on cells in their hearts than women. “So maybe men are able to handle stress better” and the chemical surge it releases, Dr. Deshmukh believes.
It happens when a shock, even a good one like winning the lottery, triggers a rush of stress hormones that cause the heart’s main pumping chamber to balloon suddenly and not work right. Tests show drastic changes in rhythm and blood substances typical of a heart attack, but no artery blockages that typically cause one.
Most people recover within weeks, but in rare cases it can prove fatal.
Japanese doctors saw this in 1900 and named it Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (tako tsubo are octopus traps that look like the pot-shape of a stricken heart).
Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy weakens the myocardium which causes symptoms like a heart attack. When the body is overly stressed researchers believe that massive amounts of stress hormones make a beeline for the heart which stuns the muscle, causing dysfunction that resembles a heart attack. http://www.science20.com/variety_tap/science_behind_heartbreak_progress
Cardiologist Ilan Wittstein at John Hopkins University School of Medicine realized, “It doesn’t kill the heart muscle like a typical heart attack, but renders it helpless.”
The pain in my chest has lessened but not gone away. I had a stress test and echo earlier this month. Today I find out the results. They are gonna be great; I was crankin’ on the treadmill.
How ‘bout you? Taking those tests you should have?
May Your Glass Always Be Half Full