Takotsubo Syndrome in the United States

Valentine’s Day is a holiday empowered by love, romance, wine, and chocolate with the underlying sentiment of celebrating newfound or long-term romantic relationships. According to Greek mythos, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs, and one head with two faces. Zeus fearing their power split them in two and condemned them to spend the rest of their lives searching for their soulmate. Many of us never find “The One”: however, those of us who are lucky to find their other half due to Zeus’s cruelty may experience something that is only portrayed in the movies (The Notebook) and told anecdotally, that of a person dying of heartbreak.

Takotsubo Syndrome (TTS), commonly known as heartbreak syndrome, is an uncommon albeit important cause of myocardial infarction. TTS is caused by a severe or extremely stressful physical or emotional life event ranging from a fierce argument with or the death of a loved one. The symptoms of TSS include sudden sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, and death. A study looked at TTS cases and investigated age and sex-based temporal trends in TTS incidence from 2006 to 2017. Throughout the study period, 135,463 cases of documented TTS were identified, allowing ample statistical power to detect an increasing incidence.

The study reported that an increase in TTS in the United States is observable; interestingly, the most pronounced increase in TTS cases and the most at-risk group are in women between 50 to 74, although it does happen in men but at a significantly lower percentage. Notably, the study could not identify the physiological drivers that cause an increased prevalence of TTS in women compared to men. However, what is speculated is that during the initial realization of the death of a partner that the woman has spent the majority of her life with dies an activation of the sympathetic nervous system is triggered releasing adrenaline and norepinephrine combined with the susceptibility of cardiac stress in a women’s older years causing heart-related issues leading to death.

Love is a powerful force that has transcended time, collapsed societies, and destroyed whole civilizations (Cleopatra and Mark Anthony). It drives passion in humans and provides that warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach when you see a tear jerker film. Now, at least, we may begin to understand the science of heartbreak.

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Canan Schuman, PharmD/PhD
Author: Canan Schuman, PharmD/PhD

Canan Schumann is Chief Editor for Axxiem and for Axxiem's blog "BiotechOntheWeb". When not writing for Axxiem, Canan works as a Clinical Research Scientist II at the Research and Development Department at Molecular Testing Labs, developing endpoint assays for the detection of infectious disease and cancer. Canan currently resides in Portland, Oregon, where he received his Honors Bachelor of Science (HBS), Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD.), and his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biopharmaceutics at Oregon State University.