Broken Heart Syndrome


Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a sudden temporary weakening of the myocardium (the muscle of the heart). Because this weakening can be triggered by emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one, the condition is also known as broken heart syndrome. A tako tsubo is a jar-shaped, Japanese octopus trap that bears a resemblance to a heart experiencing Takotsubo cardiomyopathy: a bulging left ventricular apex and a preserved base of the left ventricle. The cause of the syndrome is not entirely understood, and is currently thought to involve high circulating levels of catecholamines (fight-or-flight hormones like adrenaline).

Evaluation of individuals with takotsubo cardiomyopathy typically includes a coronary angiogram, which will not reveal any significant blockages that would cause the left ventricular dysfunction. Provided that the individual survives their initial presentation, the left ventricular function improves within two months. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is more commonly seen in post-menopausal women, and those with a history of a recent severe emotional or physical stress. A 2008 study by life insurance companies indicated that in the year following a loved one’s death, women were more than twice as likely to die than normal, and men more than six times as likely.


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