Medical Minute: Broken Heart Syndrome

Pat Massof remembers all the good times she spent with her mother who died last year.

Pat Massof said, "I lost my best friend, so it was very difficult, and it was something that I guess I just wasn't prepared for."

Pat also wasn't prepared for what happened next. She had intense chest pains and went to her doctor.

Pat said, "She said, 'Well Pat, you've just had a massive heart attack.' And I said, 'No way!'"

Then cardiologist Ilan Wittstein diagnosed Pat with broken heart syndrome. It happens when stress causes the body to release enough adrenaline to stun the heart. It looks like a heart attack, but is much different.

Ilan Wittstein, MD Cardiologist, said, "While the heart muscle looks very weak at the time that the person comes in, it fully recovers and they're left with no permanent damage."

In an image, the heart's barely moving. But four days later it's beating normally. Grief or just about any stressful situation can trigger it.

Ilan Wittstein added, "We had one woman who was held up at gunpoint and had this happen."

If you have intense chest pain after a stressful event, see your doctor right away. Broken heart syndrome is treated like a heart attack at first, but after a few days you won't need more therapies.

Pat's worked on lowering her stress with yoga.

Pat Massof said, "I feel a lot better today."

It takes time, but Pat's proof a broken heart really can be healed.

For more information, contact:
David March
Johns Hopkins University
(410) 955-1534