A number of years ago, I wrote a blog article on how stress can cause a broken heart. At the time, I had just taken care of my very first patient diagnosed with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Needless to say, I was both excited and intrigued by this condition. That is because it confirmed a tangible link between our minds and our bodies.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, there has been a recent rise in Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy in women age 50-74 years. This is also known as broken heart syndrome and stress -induced cardiomyopathy.

What are some of the symptoms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy?

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy occurs predominantly in women. Some of the common symptoms  are similar to a “typical heart attack”. These symptoms may include chest pain or chest tightness, shortness of breath, a feeling of faintness or nausea.

If you begin to experience several of these symptoms please make sure to call 911 and get straight to your nearest emergency room.

In the emergency room, you will require further diagnostic tests such as an electrocardiogram and blood tests. These tests are needed to see if there is any damage to the heart muscle which is highly suggestive of a heart attack. If any of these initial tests are abnormal, you may be admitted to the hospital for further testing.  If there is a real concern about a heart attack, you may need a coronary angiogram.

The shape of the heart on the coronary angiogram is what helps to distinguish Takotsubo cardiomyopathy from a regular heart attack.

The good news is that Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is not a heart attack.

There is still a lot of debate about what causes this in women. According to the researchers, it is suggested that the stress hormones  such as adrenaline get released into the bloodstream. They then travel to the heart and may stun the heart muscle causing it to get weak.

It was also proposed that the pandemic may be one reason we are seeing a lot more of this condition. In addition it may also be chalked down to the fact that physicians (like me) are now able to recognize it more easily than previously.

The good news is that most women with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy completely recover with no residual heart damage. It is, however still important to treat concomitant issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, obesity etc.

Key takeaways from a Functional Medicine Perspective

Anyone who has suffered an unexpected medical illness especially heart disease worries if this could happen again. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a classic example of why we need to understand the ‘root cause of illness’ .  This is why there would be a huge benefit of working with a functional medicine practitioner.

After the acute episode is over now is the time to be pro-active and seek ways to optimize your overall health and wellbeing.

The functional medicine model is unique and different from conventional medicine because it helps to explore the issues that may have triggered an event. In addition, the functional medicine approach helps to identify factors that may continue to place you at risk of ongoing illness. And then you are provided with a treatment blueprint that is personalized to your unique needs and goals. How cool is that?

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