Apical ballooning syndrome, also known as broken heart syndrome, is a condition that occurs when a person suddenly feels a great deal of stress. The stress causes one to feel chest pains or feel like they are having a heart attack. In apical ballooning syndrome, your heart’s regular pumping function is disturbed, but the rest of your heart functions normally, and may even be contracting more forcefully than normal.
The symptoms of the syndrome are chest pain and shortness of breath. Women experience apical ballooning syndrome much more often than men. Age also increases your risk of the syndrome. Most people with the syndrome are women over the age of 50. Common causes of the stress include learning about the death of a loved one, losing a large sum of money, natural disasters, a surprise party, public speaking, job loss, and divorce. Common physical stressors include asthma attacks, car accidents, and surgery.
In order to diagnose the syndrome, your doctor will ask you about your health history and perform a physical exam. They may also test the electrical impulses in your heart, take blood samples, and perform special imaging studies of your heart. Coronary angiograms are also helpful to determine if the cause of pain was apical ballooning syndrome or a heart attack. In this test, a dye is injected into your heart to see if there are any blockages in the blood vessels. Your doctor may give you some medication so that your heart does not have to work as hard as usual while you recover. Research is ongoing, so talk with your cardiologist and doctor about the most current treatment and management options. Support groups are a good source of information and can help connect you with others living with apical ballooning syndrome.