An article, reported in the BBC hit a little too close to home a few years ago. Spoiler Alert – the answer is yes! The question was Can you die of a broken heart? The problem they were talking about is a physiological change in the heart as the result of psychological or emotional stress. In the 1990s Japanese researchers began calling this Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. This name resulted from the left ventricle of the heart ballooning out to resemble a takotsubo, a fishing pot used to trap octopuses.
The article went on to talk about the different kinds of stress that can cause this, including bombs, war, and other life-threatening events. I am here to tell you that it doesn’t take anything that bad to induce takotsubo cardiomyopathy. How do I know? It happened to me a few years ago. I was sitting at my desk at the end of a very stressful, but not catastrophic day and BAM!, crushing chest pain. After a trip to the local hospital (another horror story) and many tests, takotsubo cardiomyopathy was diagnosed.
Very little is really known about this disorder, and even less is known about treatment. It does occur more frequently in women, particularly post-menopausal women, than it does in men. For most people, all the signs point to a heart attack. Initial symptoms, EKG, and lab tests all look like an MI. In fact, going into my cardiac catheterization the cardiologist told me to expect that I would be coming out of there with at least one stint. Imagine my relief when he told me there was no clot or muscle damage and that my coronary arteries looked good. It wasn’t until later when I started reading about this that I found out it can still be lethal.
So ladies….and gentlemen, if you have chest pain go to the hospital. Don’t dismiss your symptoms (or the symptoms of others) simply as stress. As I’ve said before — Stress Kills.