A woman nearly died after her heart literally broke when her dog passed away, and it's due to a syndrome many people are at risk for.
When we say that someone dies from a broken heart, we usually mean that in a metaphorical or poetic sense. But a new study indicates that it can really happen, and the symptoms are very similar to that of a heart attack. As we reported recently, “broken heart syndrome” almost caused a Texas woman to die when her dog passed away, but you might be surprised at how common it is.
It’s by no means common to get stress cardiomyopathy, but over a five year period, researchers in Germany and Canada were able to identify 256 cases at just seven hospitals in Europe and North America, according to WebMD. That means it’s probably a lot more common than you realize. It mostly affects older people, with an average age of 69, and 81 percent were postmenopausal women. But it does happen to men and to younger people.
For Joanie Simpson, a 62-year-old woman from Texas who was the subject of a recent New England Journal of Medicine report, it was the death of her dog Meha, a Yorkshire terrier, that caused her problems. She went to the emergency room with severe chest pain, and doctors expecting to find signs of a heart attack instead found her arteries clear. And so they diagnosed her with takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome.”
“A 61-year-old woman with hypertension and hypothyroidism presented to the emergency department with acute onset of severe chest pain,” the abstract of the study states. “She reported multiple recent stressors, including the death of her dog. An electrocardiogram showed ST-segment elevation in the anterolateral leads. Emergency coronary angiography revealed normal coronary arteries. Left ventriculography (Video 1 and Panel A [showing diastole] and Panel B [showing systole]) and contrast echocardiography (Video 2) revealed severe hypokinesis in the apical segments and hyperdynamic basal segments, with an ejection fraction of 40 to 45%. A diagnosis of takotsubo cardiomyopathy was made.”