Press Association “Happy events can cause potentially fatal rare heart condition” http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/03/happy-events-cause-fatal-heart-condition
Since 1990, doctors have recognised a condition known as Takotsubo syndrome, or TTS, which typically occurs in women after upsetting episodes such as the death of a spouse or parent, the breakdown of a relationship*5, or being diagnosed with cancer.
Now research has shown that the same outcome can follow happy or joyful events. Scientists have named the new condition “happy heart syndrome”.
TTS leads to characteristic changes in the shape of the heart. The main symptoms are breathlessness and chest pains but the condition is temporary and reversible after a few days or weeks. It is unusual for it to occur again in the same patient.
The researchers analysed data from 1,750 patients diagnosed with TTS in nine different countries. Of 485 patients for whom a definite emotional trigger could be identified, 96% had suffered sad and stressful events such as the loss of a loved one, attending a funeral, being hurt in an accident, or experiencing an illness or relationship problems. One obese patient was stricken after getting stuck in the bath.
But in the case of the remaining 20 individuals, heart damage appeared to have been triggered by happy occasions including a birthday party, a wedding, a surprise celebration, the birth of a great grandchild, a favourite rugby team winning a game and a trip to the opera. The findings are published in the European Heart Journal.
Dr Jelena Ghadri, from University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, where the world’s first TTS registry is based, said: “We have shown that the triggers for TTS can be more varied than previously thought. A TTS patient is no longer the classic ‘broken-hearted’ patient, and the disease can be preceded by positive emotions too.
“Clinicians should be aware of this and also consider that patients who arrive in the emergency department with signs of heart attacks, such as chest pain and breathlessness, but after a happy event or emotion, could be suffering from TTS just as much as a similar patient presenting after a negative emotional event.
Scientists are still trying to understand the mechanism behind TTS, which is thought to involve links between psychological stimuli, the brain, and the cardiovascular system.
In the study, 95% of both “broken heart” and “happy heart” patients were women. The average age of the “broken” group was 65 and of the “happy” group 71.
*1:See eg. https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/conditions/cardiomyopathy/takotsubo-cardiomyopathy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takotsubo_cardiomyopathy https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%81%9F%E3%81%93%E3%81%A4%E3%81%BC%E5%BF%83%E7%AD%8B%E7%97%87
*4:Jelena R. Ghadri, Annahita Sarcon, Johanna Diekmann, Dana Roxana Bataiosu, Victoria L. Cammann, Stjepan Jurisic, Lars Christian Napp, Milosz Jaguszewski, Frank Scherff, Peter Brugger, Lutz Jäncke, Burkhardt Seifert, Jeroen J. Bax, Frank Ruschitzka, Thomas F. Lüscher & Christian Templin “Happy heart syndrome: role of positive emotional stress in takotsubo syndrome” http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/02/19/eurheartj.ehv757
*5:Louise Tickle “You can die of 'broken heart syndrome'” http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/feb/13/broken-heart-stress-cardiomyopathy-takosubo