Thursday, February 17, 2005

Loss of Loved One Really Can Cause Broken Heart

Loss of Loved One Really Can Cause Broken Heart: "Loss of Loved One Really Can Cause Broken Heart

Confirming the wisdom of the poets and philosophers, doctors say the sudden death of a loved one really can cause a broken heart. In fact, they have dubbed the condition 'broken heart syndrome.''

In a study published just in time for Valentine's Day, doctors reported how a tragic or shocking event can stun the heart and produce classic heart attack-like symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath and fluid in the lungs.

Unlike a heart attack, the condition is reversible. Patients often are hospitalized but typically recover within days after little more than bedrest and fluids, and suffer no permanent damage to their hearts.

In their study, published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, doctors at Johns Hopkins University gave a name to the condition, demonstrated through sophisticated heart tests how it differs from a heart attack, and offered an explanation for what causes it.

For centuries, doctors have known that emotional shocks can trigger heart attacks and sudden deaths. Broken heart syndrome, technically known as stress cardiomyopathy, is a different phenomenon.

The Johns Hopkins doctors documented how a dayslong surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones can cause a decline in the heart's pumping capacity. The researchers theorized that the hormones probably cause tiny heart blood vessels to contract, but other explanations are possible."

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