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  • 'Broken heart syndrome'; mimics cardiac attack

    Published: 04/24/2012


    Ann Brunner was at home with her best friend when a sudden, wrenching pain took her breath away. Her chest felt like it was being crushed by a sumo wrestler, the squeeze migrating to her shoulders and back. She fell into a chair and her friend told her that her face was ashen. “I felt like the plug on my life had been pulled,” Brunner recalls.

    Later, in the emergency room at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, an abnormal electrocardiogram and elevated blood enzymes confirmed what Brunner, a nurse for 34 years, already suspected. She was in the midst of a severe heart attack.

    Only, as it turned out, she wasn’t.

    Brunner was the victim of a condition most of us know little about. Its symptoms mimic those of a heart attack, but they are not caused by blood clots or clogged arteries. The culprits are stress and anxiety. Its official name is tako-tsubo cardiomyopathy. Doctors have labeled it “broken heart syndrome.”

    Victims of “broken heart” syndrome learn that their condition, while serious, will probably not recur and that they will likely experience a full recovery within days or at most months. They “breathe a sigh of relief,” says D. Lynn Morris, Brunner’s cardiologist and director of Einstein’s Institute for Heart and Vascular Health. Meanwhile, they are treated aggressively, as though they had had full-blown heart attacks.

    Full article here from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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