Atlanta, Ga. (February 14, 2014) – February is American Heart Month. Throughout the month, plenty will be said about physical risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer of women. One thing that is often overlooked but should not be underestimated, doctors say, is the impact emotional well-being can have on one’s heart.
“People who find themselves constantly stressed out by the relationships in their life – personal or professional – need to find a healthy way to deal with that stress whether through exercise or talking it out with someone,” said Jyoti Sharma, M.D., Piedmont Heart. “A continual, high level of stress and anxiety has a negative impact on overall health, especially the heart.”
One condition brought on by stress is broken heart syndrome, originally known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. People with this syndrome see their doctor for chest pain, believing they might be having a heart attack. The pain, however, is not caused by clogged arteries; it is the result of severe emotional or psychological stress.
“As we pay more attention to our bodies and become more aware of things like cholesterol, blood pressure and weight, it is equally important to watch out for our emotional well-being,” said Dr. Sharma. “We need to stop and ask ourselves: Are we managing stress well? Have we taken on too much? Do we need to evaluate the relationships in our lives to be sure they are healthy for everyone involved?”
Symptoms of broken heart syndrome include chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness and an irregular heartbeat. Potential triggers include abuse, death of a loved one, a break up, an upsetting medical diagnosis, financial difficulty, a surprise party, public speaking, a car accident, major surgery or an asthma attack.
Dr. Sharma says that broken heart syndrome is more common than most people realize, mostly seen in post-menopausal women, or women ages 60 and older, who often have some sort of stressful event in their life, regardless of whether it’s an emotional or physical stressor.
For more information or to assess your risk for heart disease with a simple quiz, visit piedmontheart.org.