Broken heart syndrome has real, serious consequences

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Few pains inspire fear quite like chest pains.

“I knew that night something was wrong,” said Kathy Reynolds. “I felt like I was having a heart attack.”

But Reynolds’ scans were clean — no blockage, no heart attack.

In August 2017, Reynolds had takotsubo cardiomyopathy, commonly referred to as broken heart syndrome.

“It can cause the heart to get very big and not work very well to the point where it can’t pump blood where it’s supposed to pump,” said cardiologist Dr. Robert Woodruff. “It’s caused by emotional or physical stress.”

“The same pathways that get triggered when you’re in cocaine withdrawal are triggered when you’re experiencing a broken heart,” said psychiatrist Dr. Kari Wolf.

Despite its name, broken heart syndrome isn’t just caused by a broken it. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including everyday stress.

“I did have a few stressors in my life at the time that could have possibly precipitated it,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds works as a secretary at Prairie Heart Institute in Springfield. While she and Woodruff see a host of other cardiac problems, takotsubo cardiomyopathy makes up two percent of the institute’s patient share.

“Generally, in a day or two…they’re able to leave the hospital,” Woodruff said. “Most of these people, after one to four weeks, the heart muscle goes back to normal.”

Reynolds’ bout with takotsubo cardiomyopathy wasn’t caused by a nasty breakup, just the stresses of life. But if it ever rears its head again, she knows one thing: her friends an co-workers provide some of the best care around.

“I see them work,” she said. “I knew I was in good hands.”

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