Avera Medical Minute: Broken Heart Syndrome - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Avera Medical Minute: Broken Heart Syndrome

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Dr. David Nagelhout points out where the heart is and isn't functioning correctly. Dr. David Nagelhout points out where the heart is and isn't functioning correctly.

I think it's pretty fair to say, we've all probably had our fair share of heart break. There is actually a real medical condition referred to as "Broken Heart Syndrome". It's rare but potentially deadly.

Cardiologist Dr. David Nagelhout with North Central Heart is showing us through cardiac catheterization the classic look of stress cardiomyopathy. The sudden weakening of the heart muscle where the tip of the heart doesn't pump blood. It's commonly referred to as broken heart syndrome.

Dr. Nagelhout says, "Clearly it seems to be stress that causes it and most often it seems to be the death of a loved one. I've seen it where someone was choking and had it. Any type of a stressful situation, even a financial situation if it comes on all of a sudden. It's something in the surge of hormones that causes it."

Dr. Nagelhout says he's only seen a handful of these cases in his career, but 9 out of 10 times it will be menopausal women in their 50's and 60's who suffer from it.

Dr. Nagelhout says, "It seems to present exactly like a heart attack. Same type of symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, they'll even have EKG changes that look like a heart attack so it can be very difficult to tell upon presentation. You find out later after you do all the tests."

The major difference between broken heart syndrome and a heart attack is the course of treatment. Most often you won't need surgery to mend your "broken heart".

Dr. Nagelhout says, "That's the good news. The arteries are normal and wide open and you don't have to do anything or fix anything. It gets better on it's own."

That doesn't mean you shouldn't call 911 immediately after feeling like you are having a heart attack because right away you won't be able to tell the difference.

Dr. Nagelhout says, "It can be life threatening when it presents because the blood pressure is low, you may have life threatening arrhythmia. Yes, it tends to get better, but it can be dangerous for the first few days."

It's bad enough to try and function with heart break, you shouldn't let it kill you. Call for help.


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