Research claims happiness can break your heart too

3 March 2016        

Category: BHF Comment

A female researcher in a lab

Happy events can trigger a heart condition known as takotsubo syndrome, according to research.

The condition is also called acute stress cardiomyopathy, broken heart syndrome and apical ballooning syndrome. 

Research published in the European Heart Journal, studied 485 takotsubo syndrome patients worldwide, where there was a definite emotional trigger, and found 20 (4%) followed happy and joyful events. The vast majority (96%) had occurred after sad and stressful events, such as death of a spouse, child or parent.

Takotsubo syndrome is a temporary condition where your heart muscle becomes suddenly weakened or ‘stunned’. The left ventricle, one of the heart’s chambers, changes shape developing a narrow neck and a round bottom.

A rare condition

Professor Peter Weissberg, our Medical Director, said: “Takotsubo syndrome is a rare event in which people experience heart attack-like symptoms and show signs of heart muscle weakness. Fortunately, unlike a heart attack, it usually recovers completely with no long term damage to the heart.

"The cause of Takotsubo is unknown but it can be triggered by a recent stressful event, such as a bereavement, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the broken heart syndrome. This study suggests that in a very few cases the triggering event may be a happy one.  Much more research is needed to understand how such emotional events can trigger temporary heart damage in a few susceptible individuals.”

more about the condition