Broken heart syndrome mimicking heart attack symptoms, the risk may increase with active marijuana use: Study

broken heart syndrome, stress cardiomyopathyAccording to new research presented to the American Heart Association, active marijuana use has the potential to increase the risk of broken heart syndrome, which can feel like a heart attack.

When relationships go sour, people joke that they have a broken heart, but broken heart syndrome is real. Also referred to as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takosubo’s cardiomyopathy, broken heart can strike people even if they are healthy. While it is not a heart attack, some of the symptoms mimic a heart attack, so sometimes people get misdiagnosed. Researchers contend that active marijuana use may in fact double the risk of broken heart syndrome/stress cardiomyopathy, which is essentially heart muscle malfunction. The condition is usually sudden and temporary, but at the time of an episode, weakening of the heart muscles can reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood.


Researchers used patient information or urine samples to gather data on marijuana use and general health. They turned to Nationwide Inpatient Sample and found 33,343 people who were hospitalized with stress cardiomyopathy between 2003 and 2011 in the United States. Despite being younger and having fewer cardiovascular risk factors than non-users, marijuana users were much more likely to go into cardiac arrest during a stress cardiomyopathy episode. The research team pointed out that they did account for other factors such as tobacco use, depression, alcoholism, and multiple substance abuses, since some of these can increase the risk of stress cardiomyopathy. The experts concluded that if you are using marijuana and develop temporary symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath, you should be seen by a doctor just to make sure you aren’t experiencing broken heart syndrome.

This latest update on broken heart syndrome comes at a time when several U.S. states are considering the legalization of marijuana.

Broken heart syndrome symptoms may be easily mistaken for a heart attack: Study

Broken heart syndrome can be frightening, just like heart attacks are. Oftentimes, it can be brought on by a stressful situation in a person’s life. While the underlying cause is unknown, it is believed that it is secondary to the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones that have a deteriorating impact on the heart. Unlike a heart attack, broken heart syndrome (also called transient apical ballooning syndrome by some medical experts) is usually reversible. The majority of people who have a broken heart regain cardiac function within a relatively short period of time.

When you consider the typical symptoms of broken heart syndrome, it is easy to see how it can be misinterpreted as a heart attack. People with broken heart/stress cardiomyopathy can experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, and even fainting. It is usually more common in women and those who are over the age of 50. However, it can happen to people who are younger.

Treatment options and diagnosis for stress cardiomyopathy/broken heart syndrome

ECGDoctors will consider a number of tools to determine if you have broken heart syndrome. A test or a combination of the tests listed below can be part of diagnosing the problem.

  • Physical exam and personal history
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to record electrical impulses that make your heart beat
  • Echocardiogram, which is a special ultrasound of the chest showing detailed images of the heart’s structure and function
  • Blood tests, which may reveal an increase in certain enzymes linked to broken heart
  • Chest X-ray to see if the heart is enlarged
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (cardiac MRI), providing detailed images of the heart
  • Coronary angiogram, which is a special X-ray using dye injected into the blood vessels of the heart.

Broken heart syndrome treatment could include medicines to relieve fluid buildup, treat blood pressure, or manage stress hormones. These medications are typically stopped once the doctor is assured that the heart is back to functioning normally. If it is determined that stressful events coincide with the broken heart episodes, some doctors will prescribe anti-anxiety medications or provide other suggestions for managing stress.

The good news is, most people who suffer from broken heart syndrome and are properly treated, recover within a month or so. Without treatment, though, there can be complications that are life threatening.

Tips to living with broken heart syndrome/stress cardiomyopathy

Heart specialists have reported that the risk of having a repeat episode of broken heart syndrome is low. It does help to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising, eating nutritional foods, and avoiding tobacco. Relaxation therapy to deal with emotional upset that may have contributed to a broken heart syndrome episode is believed to be a very good way to prevent further problems. Exercises such as tai chi, yoga, and meditation are often recommended to those who have had broken heart syndrome/stress cardiomyopathy.


It is also important to get regular physical check-ups, as well as surround yourself with supportive people.

The relationship between stress and illness can be complicated, especially when we consider that some people are more susceptible to stress than others. Genetics, personality, social support, and coping style are all factors that help determine how our bodies deal with stress. Some studies suggest that low level, short-term stress can actually boost the immune system, but high level of chronic stress can lead to illness. Episodes of broken heart syndrome can follow a variety of emotional stressors such as loss of a loved one, fear, extreme anger, and even surprise. It is worth noting that physical stressors such as a stroke or difficulty breathing due to asthma or emphysema can lead to a broken heart episode.

It can be comforting for people to know that their odds of quick recovery from broken heart syndrome/stress cardiomyopathy are very good and that broken heart syndrome causes continue to be the subject of a lot of research.

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.


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