Tragedies do cause bro­ken hearts, study sug­gests

Daily Trust - - HEALTH -

The stress of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters can break people’s hearts, ac­cord­ing to a new study. Re­searchers found dra­matic rises in “bro­ken heart syn­drome” in Ver­mont af­ter a huge storm rav­aged the state and in Mis­souri af­ter a mas­sive tor­nado.

People with bro­ken heart syn­drome -- for­mally called Takot­subo car­diomy­opa­thy -- suf­fer a tem­po­rary en­large­ment and weak­en­ing of the heart. The con­di­tion is of­ten trig­gered by ex­treme emo­tional or phys­i­cal stress, such as los­ing a loved one or be­ing in a traf­fic crash.

“De­spite the seem­ingly in­creas­ing num­ber of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters we have, there is limited data about how it might af­fect the heart,” said lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor Dr. Sadip Pant, an in­ternist at the Univer­sity of Arkansas for Med­i­cal Sci­ences.

“Our find­ings sug­gest two dis­as­ters -- one in Ver­mont and one in Mis­souri -- might have been pos­si­ble trig­gers for the clus­ter­ing of Takot­subo car­diomy­opa­thy cases in these re­gions,” Pant said.

For the study, a univer­sity team looked at data from nearly 22,000 people in the United States who were di­ag­nosed with bro­ken heart syn­drome in 2011. They mapped the cases state by state and found that Mis­souri and Ver­mont had the high­est rate of cases -- 169 and 380 per 1 mil­lion res­i­dents, re­spec­tively.

Most states had fewer than 150 cases per mil­lion people In 2011, Ver­mont was dev­as­tated by Trop­i­cal Storm Irene, and an enor­mous tor­nado tore through Jo­plin, Mo., and killed at least 158 people.

The study is sched­uled for pre­sen­ta­tion Satur­day at the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Car­di­ol­ogy an­nual meet­ing, in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Symp­toms of bro­ken heart syn­drome in­clude chest pain and short­ness of breath. The con­di­tion typ­i­cally re­solves within one or two months, but can lead to se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions, such as heart fail­ure, heart rhythm dis­or­ders and stroke in some cases.

“By and large, it is a very re­versible form of car­diomy­opa­thy, but in the acute phase these pa­tients need to be mon­i­tored closely to be sure they are sta­ble and to pre­vent and man­age prob­lems,” Pant said in a col­lege news re­lease.

“It’s also some­thing that emer­gency doc­tors and med­i­cal per­son­nel need to be aware of as they are of­ten on the front­lines see­ing pa­tients af­ter dis­as­ter strikes,” he said.

Bro­ken heart syn­drome is “a per­fect ex­am­ple of our brain-heart con­nec­tion,” Pant said. “The emo­tional stress we have in our brain can lead to re­sponses in the heart, and not much is known about this con­di­tion.”

Data and con­clu­sions pre­sented at meet­ings typ­i­cally are con­sid­ered pre­lim­i­nary un­til pub­lished in a peer-re­viewed med­i­cal jour­nal.

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