The Heart of the Matter
Broken-heart syndrome, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a painful cardiac episode that mimics a heart attack but typically without blockage of coronary arteries.
It isn't known what causes broken-heart syndrome, which mostly affects postmenopausal women. A recent study found 6,230 cases in the U.S. in 2012.
Extreme emotional or physical stress are common triggers, but for many patients it isn't clear what brought on an attack.
Patients usually heal within days or weeks without residual damage to the heart. But broken-heart syndrome can also be fatal.
Doctors have long prescribed beta blockers to prevent a recurrence, but a recent study found this isn't effective.
New research suggests the body's parasympathetic nervous system, the system that calms the body down, may play a role in causing broken-heart syndrome. Scientists want to study yoga and other breathing and relaxation techniques to prevent attacks.