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Doctors say there is such a thing as Broken Heart Syndrome - KOAM TV 7

Doctors say there is such a thing as Broken Heart Syndrome

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Can a person lose the will to live?  According to doctors, the answer is yes.  A new report that cites the Joplin tornado shows traumatic events can physically break the heart.

Mark Bridges has been Newton County coroner for 18 years.  He believes in people regularly dying from Broken Heart Syndrome.

"They give up the will to live.  They don't want to live without their spouse, who they've lived with for 50 years.  I personally haven't had one of these myself, but I've read where they've called their family members and they've said, I don't want to live anymore.  I'm going to die today.  And they just go lay down and die of natural causes," says Bridges.

Takotsubo is the physician's term for Broken Heart Syndrome.  Takotsubo is a device the Japanese use to trap an octopus.  It looks like a water bottle.  The octopus gets in, but can't get back out.

"Where we see the heart come in, the heart in the front will actually balloon, and that's why some people will actually call this an Apical Ballooning Syndrome.  The bottom part of the heart will still squeeze the way that it's supposed to, but the front will dilate and become what we call hypokinetic, or just not move very well," says Doctor Ryan Longnecker, a cardiologist at Freeman Health System.

Cardiologists at Freeman say they see about two to three cases of Broken Heart Syndrome a year.  But during the week after the Joplin tornado, there were more.

"We saw five cases, specifically in that first week.  And we saw a total of eight within a three month period of that tornado," says Doctor Longnecker.

"I had two individuals that I worked, the day after the tornado, that passed away in a nursing home in Newton County, that had been transferred, that had no injuries whatsoever from the tornado.  I remember working one situation where a lady had been told about her dad dying, and then she started having heart pains and then she passed away," says Bridges.

Doctors say it's all caused by stress, with little or no blockage at all in arteries.

"In this situation, they suspect that the Broken Heart Syndrome is a byproduct of a lot of hormones that get secreted as a byproduct of that stressor.  And those hormones go into the heart muscle, and the heart doesn't know what to do with them," says Doctor Longnecker.

Most of the time, Broken Heart Syndrome is treated.  But there are the few times where cardiac arrest causes death.  Doctors say this is one more example that shows the power of the brain.  

"The human mind is probably the strongest organ we have," says Doctor Longnecker.

Doctors say common symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome are shortness of breath and chest pains.

For more information on the research findings that have now been published by scientists at the University of Arkansas, click here.

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