New research says positive emotions can also cause heart issues.
There is a rare condition known as “broken heart syndrome” in which the symptoms are so severe, it can sometimes be confused with an actual heart attack, complete with chest pains and shortness of breath. Now, new research is saying the onset of the syndrome can be not only caused by emotional stress, but can also result from being happy or experiencing positive emotions.
A report on livevscience.com cites a study published this week that has linked pleasant experiences to broken heart syndrome, which can cause a sudden, but temporary weakness in the muscles of the heart. The condition, also referred to as stress cardiomyopathy, was originally called takotsubo syndrome (TTS) back in 1990, when a Japanese researcher first recognized the syndrome. The name came from a takotsubo, or octopus pot, because the bulging appearance of the heart resembled the shape.
Taking a new look at the syndrome, on which several studies had focused on the negative aspects as the cause, the researchers wanted to know of happy experiences might just cause a similar reaction in some individuals. They analyzed information collected from people who took part in the International Takotsubo Registry, a database containing the records of both men and women in the United States and eight European countries that had been diagnosed with the syndrome.
From the records of 1,750 subjects, a total of 458 were determined to have had definite emotional triggers that preceded the beginning of the symptoms that led to the diagnosis. Although the vast majority experienced negative stress at the onset, about four percent recorded a positive event as the trigger, with becoming a grandmother, having a birthday party and a son’s wedding listed among the possible causes.
The researchers were surprised to find that positive emotions could also lead to TTS, according to study author Dr. Jelena R. Ghadri, who is a cardiologist and research fellow a University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland. Dr. Ghadri added these findings will broaden the spectrum of emotions that are known to contribute to the onset of TTS.
The researchers say they now plan to evaluate the part the brain may play in those with the “happy heart syndrome” as compared to those who develop the condition after suffering a negative stress event, to determine the interactions between the heart and the brain.
The findings from the study were published in the European Heart Journal.