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Do you have a "broken heart" on Valentine's Day?

February 11, 2015

If you are experiencing a "broken heart" this Valentine’s Day, you could actually be experiencing a true medical condition known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Also referred to as "broken heart syndrome," the temporary condition mimics a heart attack and can include symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat, noted Dr. Amir Lotfi, a cardiologist in the Heart & Vascular Program at Baystate, who has treated patients for the temporary condition.

Why the heart "breaks"

"We often refer to this condition as stress cardiomyopathy because it is typically brought on by very stressful and often unexpected situations, such as the death of a loved one, fear, and, yes, even a break-up whether on Valentine’s Day or anytime," Dr. Lotfi said. "What happens is that during times of extreme, intense stress, our bodies react by releasing a surge of hormones such as adrenaline, which can result in a rapid weakening of the heart muscle leading to sudden chest pain and the belief you are having a heart attack."

Unlike a true heart attack, the heart muscle is not permanently damaged. Most patients usually return to normal with a week or two and make a complete recovery with the use of some medications and a little "tender loving care."