Takotsubo cardiomyopathy can sometimes be caused by happy event

22nd March 2016

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, sometimes called broken heart syndrome, can be triggered by happiness as well as sad or stressful events, says a new study.

It has long been known that the condition, which causes the heart muscle to suddenly weaken, can be caused by bereavement, relationship breakdown and events such as a serious car accident.

But now researchers from Switzerland say happy moments, such as winning a large sum of money, can also trigger the condition. They estimate that one in 20 cases is caused by joy.

Women appear to be more prone to the rare condition than men. It may appear like a heart attack and include severe chest pain and shortness of breath. But there is no blockage in the heart arteries, which normally happens in a heart attack.

People with the condition often make a full recovery, though it can recur.

Researchers Dr  Christian Templin and Dr Jelena Ghadri, both from the University Hospital Zurich, tracked 1,750 cases of  takotsubo cardiomyopathy (TTC) at 25 hospitals across nine countries.

They found that 485 cases suffered from emotional turmoil and 4% of cases were due to “happy heart syndrome”.

Dr Ghadri said: “We have shown that the triggers for TTC can be more varied than previously thought. The disease can be preceded by positive emotions too.”

In the study researchers discovered heart problems caused by events including a birthday party, a son’s wedding, becoming a grandmother, winning a casino jackpot and even being cleared of having another illness.

TTC is thought to most commonly affect women, and the study suggested most cases were in post-menopausal women.

Dr Ghadri added that doctors should be aware that the condition can be caused by both sad and happy events, and shared a common "emotional pathway".

Now more research is needed to understand how emotional events can trigger temporary heart damage in some people.

For more details about TTC, see here