Many people are aware of the phrase “broken heart” and associate it with sadness. The more medically minded might also think of broken heart syndrome, a rare but real heart condition that most often occurs following a particularly stressful or emotional event -- hence the name. Experts refer to broken heart syndrome with a myriad of different names including takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, and stress cardiomyopathy. Physicians don’t fully understand the syndrome or its intrinsic causes. The condition is usually temporary, with symptoms lasting a few days to a few weeks.
The distinguishing symptom of broken heart syndrome is a weakening of the left ventricle. The most common results of this are chest pain and shortness of breath. Some people with broken heart syndrome have irregular heartbeats, and sometimes the heart becomes too weak to pump blood properly, due to cardiogenic shock. This can result in loss of consciousness or even death. Each of these symptoms can appear during or following a heart attack, making it difficult to distinguish between the two.
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