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Broken hearts can cause same long-term damage as heart attacks

By Miranda Larbi

If you’ve ever been broken hearted, you’ll know the dull pang of sorrow well. It can feel like your heart is swollen, like you’ve been eight rounds with Anthony Joshua. And now it turns out that being broken hearted really does do damage to the heart.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or ‘broken heart syndrome’, affects at least 3,000 people in the UK after a traumatic event, and during an attack, the heart muscles weaken to a point where it can no longer work effectively. And researchers from the University of Aberdeen have now found that those effects can be permanent – like a heart attack.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation, looked at 37 Takotsubo patients for two years and they found that they had untreatable damage to their hearts’ muscle tissue which had reduced elasticity. That in turn stopped the muscle from contracting fully with every heartbeat. ‘Takotsubo is a devastating disease that can suddenly strike down otherwise healthy people,’ says Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation.

‘We once thought the effects of this life-threatening disease were temporary, but now we can see they can continue to affect people for the rest of their lives. ‘This new research shows there are long-term effects on heart health, and suggests we should be treating patients in a similar way to those who are at risk of heart failure.’

 

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