Getting to the Heart of Valentine's Day

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


February 11, 2019

Broken Heart Syndrome Is Real

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Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also referred to as "stress cardiomyopathy" or "broken heart syndrome," is a result of severe emotional or physical stress and mimics acute coronary syndrome. Long considered to be transient and benign, there is an emerging body of evidence that that this not the case.

A systematic review published early in 2019 involving over 4000 individuals found high rates of life-threatening complications, including heart failure, shock, and malignant arrhythmias, with in-hospital death occurring in almost 2% of cases. Long-term prognosis was also grim; 3.5% of survivors died per year over a median follow-up of 28 months.

A recent study[14] of individuals experiencing profound grief as the result of a loss of a spouse found that the stress may result in levels of inflammation high enough to cause heart damage. Elevations in proinflammatory cytokines appeared to be dose-related; spousally bereaved individuals with greater levels of grief develop higher levels of inflammation than those who experience less severe grief.

Rates of this type of cardiomyopathy seem to be increasing. Is heart disease linked in any way with Valentine's Day? There is no firm level 1 evidence that failure to be remembered by a cherished one on Valentine's Day can lead to heart disease. On the other hand, a gift or even just an extra hug on February 14th will be remembered and certainly will do more good than harm.

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