Up until 20 years ago, i.e., 2002, dying of a broken heart was simply a phrase, a figure of speech and not a medical reality.
In 2002 Dr. Hikaru Sato and his colleagues at the Hiroshima Hospital, Japan, described it in a study they conducted. Dr. Sato coined the medical term as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, colloquially known as ‘broken heart syndrome’.
Even more recently, scientists happened to have discovered that just like acute sadness, you can also die of excessive happiness and the condition is medically known by the same name – takotsubo cardiomyopathy but colloquially, it will be called, ‘happy heart syndrome’.
What is takotsubo cardiomyopathy?
Before we know more about it, it is important to note that this condition is not always fatal. As is the case with other cardiomyopathies, people can recover from this too, without any long-term damage.
The condition has this name because people who have this tend to have a left ventricle that is shaped abnormally. The shape, which is narrow at the top and sort of ballooning at the bottom looks a lot like ceramic pots that are traditionally used to trap octopuses (also called takotsubo in Japanese), hence the name of the condition.
A study in the US which comprised of 135,000 people suggested that more and more people have been diagnosed with this condition in the 11 years of the study period – 2006 to 2017.
The study also found that this condition is more prevalent in women (88%) and it is seen more commonly in people who are over 50 years old.
Until very recently, ‘broken heart syndrome’ was associated with emotional and physical stress. Stressful events have been known to trigger these conditions – losing a loved one, physical abuse, accident or receiving a fatal diagnosis.
Just a while ago, researchers in Germany have found though patients with takotsubo were also triggered by deliriously happy events like winning a lottery, weddings, birth of a grandchild and so on.
Out of 910 patients in that study who were triggered emotionally, 37 had happy heart syndrome and 873 had broken heart syndrome. While broken heart syndrome is more common in women, happy heart syndrome seems to be more commonplace among men. For the most part, this condition is rarely fatal. So, there is no need to modulate your emotions whether they are happy or sad. That said, during intensely emotional moments, if you feel a pinch or pull in your chest, don’t wait it out and seek medical help right away.