Cardiologist: Cases of ‘broken heart syndrome’ on the rise

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In the words of Billy Ray Cyrus, the heart has a mind of its own.

A broken heart is a powerful thing and potentially dangerous.

Lately, Dr. Donna Phelan at Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany is seeing more and more of it .

"It happens surprisingly much more commonly than people recognize," said Phelan.

In layman’s terms, it’s called "broken heart syndrome."

"The medical term for it typically is takotsubo cardiomyopathy," said Phelan.

The name comes from the octopus traps in Japan. The shape of those traps is similar to the shape that develops in the heart. It looks like an upside-down balloon.

"It’s caused by a sudden stress of some sort, like having your heart broken," explained Phelan.

That means you almost have to be cardiologist/therapist in these situations.

The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are similar to those of a heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Fainting spells

While it can be very serious, Phelan says the majority of patients survive.

"The treatment is medication, and with medication and with time, the heart heals," said Phelan.

Since the pandemic, Phelan says she and the more than 30 other doctors at Capital Cardiology see on average one patient a month with broken heart syndrome.

"I would say prior to that, it was probably half of that," said Phelan.

She also mentioned it happens more in women than men, but it’s unclear why.

"Some would argue that’s because we have more gentle hearts that can be broken more readily," said Phelan.