Stress Cardiomyopathy

Your Care Explained > Conditions and Diagnoses : Stress Cardiomyopathy

Stress cardiomyopathy is a sudden weakening of the heart muscle brought on by either emotional or physical stress.

Women, especially older women, are much more likely than men to suffer stress cardiomyopathy. Most patients make complete recoveries and don’t suffer a recurrence.

Causes of Stress Cardiomyopathy

Stress cardiomyopathy, also referred to as the “broken heart syndrome,” can be triggered by intense emotional reactions like terror, rage or overwhelming grief, or by physical events such as an asthma attack or hemorrhage. It is thought to be due to a sudden release of adrenaline, which “stuns” the heart cells.

Symptoms of Stress Cardiomyopathy

The symptoms mimic those of heart attack—chest pain, shortness of breath, loss of strength and fainting.

Diagnosing Stress Cardiomyopathy

Because women with stress cardiomyopathy appear to be having a heart attack, the tests for myocardial infarction are given to them, including blood tests for CK-MB and troponins, electrocardiogram and coronary angiography. Although people suffering stress cardiomyopathy have many test results indicating a heart attack, their coronary arteries are usually clear.

Treating Stress Cardiomyopathy

Patients with stress cardiomyopathy may be given medication to ease the stress on the heart, including vasodilators to open blood vessels and diuretics to eliminate excess fluid. They are usually monitored while resting in the hospital. As the levels of stress hormones fall, the heart regains its previous pumping capacity.

Nutrition and Prevention

Reference these links for information on how to prevent heart disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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