The Anatomy of a Broken Heart

The Anatomy of a Broken Heart


Dying from a broken heart may sound
like it’s from romance fiction, but it is real. And now
science has a name for it. Takotsubo is this cardiomyopathy that
we also call broken heart syndrome. So this is when some stressful event, either physical or emotional or medical
triggers a cascade inside the body that leads to a transient reversible
dysfunction of the left
ventricle and the heart, the reason that it’s called Takotsubo
is because of the unusual shape that the heart takes. So in this cardiomyopathy, the base of the heart squeezes
normally, but the apex, which is down near the edge of the heart, balloons out into this balloon
shape and it doesn’t squeeze well. And so that shaped with a ballooned
apex and a base that squeezes it, uh, represents or looks
like a Japanese octopus pot, which is called a Takotsubo. So the name came from the
Japanese medical literature, which is where this syndrome
was first described. And the signature article that was
published on this was actually in the Valentine’s Day edition of the
New England Journal of Medicine. And it was referred to
as broken heart syndrome. The idea being that some stressful
emotional event could actually trigger a broken heart. One of the tricky things about this
disease clinically is that it tends to be people who are in the same age range
as those who develop heart attacks, and this looks and sounds and
smells and feels for all the world, like a heart attack. Now, the good news
about stress cardiomyopathy, Takotsubo, broken heart syndrome, the good
news is that it actually recovers. So given enough time, these patients
recover their heart function completely, which is kind of like
broken hearts in real life.

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