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A mature woman with black hair holds her hand over her chest, with a sad or pained look on her face.
A mature woman with black hair holds her hand over her chest, with a sad or pained look on her face.

What Is Broken Heart Syndrome?

A Cardiologist Shares What You Need to Know

Extreme emotion or stress can often influence your health, and your heart is no exception. There is growing evidence that stress and emotional health can influence heart health, explains Northwestern Medicine Cardiologist Nilay S. Shah, MD, MPH.

Knowing the Symptoms

Broken heart syndrome is also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy. It can occur when you experience negative heart symptoms because of high emotion or stress. The most common symptoms of broken heart syndrome are:

  • Chest pain (also known as angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abnormal heartbeat (also known as arrythmia)

Because of the similarity in symptoms, broken heart syndrome may be mistaken for a heart attack or another type of cardiac episode. One notable difference is that in broken heart syndrome, symptoms occur immediately after intense emotional or physical stress.

Seeking Treatment

Though there is an overlap in symptoms and you may not be experiencing a heart attack, Dr. Shah emphasizes that chest pain or shortness of breath during a stressful situation is cause for immediate medical help in an emergency department.

For non-urgent situations, you should talk to your physician about how stress may be influencing your heart health, adds Dr. Shah. Your care team can help you find ways to support your health during stressful periods. 

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Nilay S. Shah, MD, MPH
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