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Breakthrough on broken hearts

Thursday June 28th, 2012

People who suffer from a broken heart may be experiencing natural defences against the effects of severe stress, such as bereavement, researchers have revealed.

"Broken heart" is now recognised as a genuine medical condition when the heart stops beating, as in heart failure.

Technically known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, it is thought to affect up to two per cent of people diagnosed with heart attack, researchers say.

Normally a rush of adrenaline stimulates the heart to beat faster - but according to scientists at Imperial College, London, the body may have an alternative response to prevent overload. That means shutting the heart down.

The condition commonly affects elderly women - who are most likely to suffer bereavement - but can also affect people who receive shots of adrenaline to counteract severe allergic reactions.

The researchers suggest a drug called levosimendan can help treat the condition as it stimulates the heart without using the pathways affected by adrenaline.

Their findings have been reported in the journal Circulation and come from laboratory research.

Researcher Professor Sian Harding, from the college's National Heart and Lung Institute, said: "Adrenaline's stimulatory effect on the heart is important for helping us get more oxygen around the body in stressful situations, but it can be damaging if it goes on for too long."

Fellow researcher Dr Alexander Lyon said: "We've identified a drug treatment that might be helpful, but the most important thing is to recognise the condition, and not to make it worse by giving patients with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy more adrenaline or adrenaline-like medications."

High levels of circulating epinephrine trigger apical cardiodepression in a â2-1 adrenoceptor/Gi-dependent manner: a new model of Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. H Paur et al. Circulation June 25 2012

Tags: Heart Health | Mental Health | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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