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How happiness can harm the heart

Thursday March 3rd, 2016

Joyful events can trigger acute stress cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo syndrome, according to a European study published today.

The condition is also known as "broken heart syndrome" as it has been linked to the effects of grief, anger and fear since it was first described in 1990.

The latest research, from Zurich, Switzerland, has linked a small number of incidents of the syndrome to happy events.

These included birthday parties, weddings, a birth, a surprise farewell celebration and a favoured team winning a game of rugby.

Researchers studied from 1,750 patients from 25 centres in nine countries, reported to a new International Takotsubo Registry. They found 485 illnesses linked to emotional stresses.

Some 20 of these were happy events - 4% of the 485 - and the average age of those affected was 71. The remainder were sad events.

The study, reported in the European Heart Journal, found that 95% of the patients affected by emotional stress were women.

The study found that seven of the patients affected by happiness had hearts that ballooned in the mid-ventricle. This compared with 16% of those affected by sadness - although the numbers are too small to be significant.

Researcher Dr Jelena Ghadri, a cardiologist at the University Hospital, Zurich, said: "A Takotsubo syndrome patient is no longer the classic broken hearted patient, and the disease can be preceded by positive emotions too.

"Clinicians should be aware of this and also consider that patients who arrive in the emergency department with signs of heart attacks, such as chest pain and breathlessness, but after a happy event or emotion, could be suffering from Takotsubo syndrome just as much as a similar patient presenting after a negative emotional event.

"Our findings broaden the clinical spectrum of Takotsubo syndrome. They also suggest that happy and sad life events may share similar emotional pathways that can ultimately cause Takotsubo syndrome.”

Jelena R. Ghadri et al. Happy heart syndrome: role of positive emotional stress in Takotsubo syndrome European Heart Journal 3 March 2016; doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehv757

Tags: Elderly Health | Europe | Heart Health | Mental Health | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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