Doctors and researchers are warning that joyous moments like your team winning the Super Bowl or the birth of a child can lead to Takotsubo Syndrome (TTS) or “broken heart syndrome” a dangerous condition that causes the sudden weakening of heart muscles causing a ballooning of the left ventricle that can, well, kill you.
Happiness shouldn’t cause a broken heart
As Neil Sedaka and Little Eva have pointed out “breaking up is hard to do,” a death in the family and other bad news should cause a broken heart but joyful events? “Broken heart syndrome” as reported today in European Heart Journal is a rare occasion that is rarely fatal but generally does cause acute chest pain and shortness of breath that if it doesn’t give you a heart attack can certainly make you think you’re having one.
Takotsubo Syndrome (TTS) is named after a Japanese octopus trap that resembles the shape of the left ventricle in its bulbousness.
While dangerous in some cases, TSS is generally both temporary and reversible with a low rate of occurrence according to the British Heart Foundation. While “broken heart syndrome” also occurs when horrible events occur, researchers have found that, on occasion, that happy events do the same and shows the link between emotionally taxing events and the cardiovascular system.
Swiss researchers involved in the published paper studied data from 1,750 patients in nine countries who were diagnosed with TTS. What they found was that of those diagnosed with TTS, 485 had the illness triggered by a psychologically taxing even and while 96% were bereaved or otherwise bothered in some way, 20 suffered from a happy day or event.
The average age of those that suffered from TTS linked to sadness was 65; that went up to an average age of 71 who suffered from TTS when joyful. Somewhat astounding was the fact that over 95% who suffered following a sad event were women.
Dr Jelena Ghadri, from University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, where the world’s first TTS registry is based, said: “A TTS patient is no longer the classic ‘broken hearted’ patient, and the disease can be preceded by positive emotions too.”
“[The findings] also suggest that happy and sad life events may share similar emotional pathways that can ultimately cause TTS.”
“Perhaps both happy and sad life events, while inherently distinct, share final common pathways in the central nervous system output, which ultimately lead to TTS,” said Dr. Christian Templin from University Hospital Zurich, co-author of the study
Further mysteries remain for the group
Estrogen levels are the likely cause for the disparity between TTS in the bereaved but I wouldn’t share that with your wife or girlfriend if interested in telling them that they “are being to emotional” or worse “overreacting.”
“We still do not know why women are predominately affected by the Takotsubo syndrome,” Ghadri told the Agence France-Presse.
“We can only speculate that the hormonal state — namely, estrogen — might play a role in the disease mechanism.”
Oddly, while women suffer more from sad events, men have more heart attacks in the same instances.
No matter the cause, it’s probably best to take a few deep breaths during an emotionally taxing moment, while there is no medical reason for this, per se, it’s probably not the worst advice in the world at the end of the day.
If the Chicago Cubs ever win the World Series (again) expect to read more about TTS.