Another Valentine's Day has passed. I often wonder where the time goes. It seems like yesterday my daughter was buying those little cards and sharing cut out hearts with her peers. Now, she's 15 and this year she had fun in a different way and I was happy to be involved. My daughter invited a couple of friends for a sleep over. To prep, we visited a popular corner store and bought some decorative doughnuts. This way, the little princesses could wake up on the big day and over indulge on heart-shaped goodies with sprinkles. I really can't believe that we've lived in Raleigh since 2000 and this is the first time we've hand selected the fine craftsmanship of the hot, beautifully decorated dough.
This brings me to my next mention. It does involve food as many events often do. My husband is so sweet and he gets caught up in the Valentine’s Day world of cards and candy. Almost like clockwork, he buys me and our daughter chocolate, separate boxes of course. What’s not to like about chocolate! I love dark chocolate, even before it was announced that it was heart healthy.
Although this day is recognized as a heartfelt day, I can’t help but think of those who don’t have a special someone or perhaps they lost a sweetheart from a break up or worse.
It reminds me of a time that I was doing research for American Heart Month many years ago. Human emotions are so amazing! Our heart’s role is mechanical but it is highly influenced by our feelings and can impact our physical health. This is when I discovered Broken Heart Syndrome.
Broken Heart Syndrome, also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a temporary heart condition where the heart muscle in the left ventricle enlarges and has a negative influence on the heart’s ability to pump blood. It often occurs after the loss of a loved one, but can also happen when a great deal of fear is present.
I remember reading a story about a woman who was robbed at gun point. She suddenly had shortness of breath and severe chest pain. Apparently the stress hormones stunned her heart and caused symptoms similar to those of a heart attack. She collapsed in the alley and when she woke up, her purse was gone along with her car. Her symptoms disappeared, but she was weak and worried. She made her way to the closest store and was taken to the hospital.
The test results indicated that she did have changes to her heart rhythm and substances were found in the blood conducive to having a heart attack. There was no evidence of blocked arteries, so it was concluded that she had Broken Heart Syndrome. Often times, this condition is misdiagnosed because it is so similar to a typical heart attack.
For some reason, women are victims much more than men. It can occur during a divorce or romantic betrayal. It can also happen after good stress surges through the body. There are stories of people winning the lottery who believe they are having a heart attack due to the excitement.
As far as the negative implications, Broken Heart Syndrome can lead to severe, short-term heart muscle failure, but it is often treatable. The majority make a full recovery within weeks and they are at low risk for a second episode.
Over the years of teaching mindfulness and stress resilience, I’m amazed at the interconnection of the mind, emotions and the body. I continue to be intrigued by this story and the impact that stress can have on us. The lady who experienced this condition is doing very well now. They found her car and she cancelled her credit cards before they were used. She said the experience was surreal and she felt as if “playing possum,” as she called it, saved her life. To learn more about Broken Heart Syndrome, visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/broken-heart-syndrome
Since writing this blog, I have discovered a couple of stories that were recently released that may be of interest - http://www.cbsnews.com/news/joined-together-in-love-and-in-death/ and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-cynthia-thaik/broken-heart_b_6682528.html. Share this story! You never know who this might help.