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Innovation

Broken hearts can mend, and now we know why

What's happening when your husband dies is that coronary micro-circulation declines, this reduces blood flow through the heart, and the heart does not contract properly for a time, assuming instead a balloon-like shape. The good news is your blood cells are not dying -- it's not a heart attack.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

A broken heart is not all in your head.

Italian scientists (naturally) have isolated the physical cues of a broken heart.

A team under Leda Galiuto used myocardial contrast echocardiography, injecting a dye to make small vessels light up in an electrocardiogram (ECG).

This test, done at a patient's bedside, found spasms in small coronary blood vessels serving the apical chamber, the tip of the pump where the heart's chambers open-and-close.

The result is what Japanese scientists 20 years ago named tako tsubo cardiomyopathy (broken heart syndrome). The name is taken from the appearance of an octopus (tako) in a trap (tsubo).

Four out of five times, this damage reverses. Sometimes, however, it persists.

"The fact is that the damage caused by this syndrome is in the heart but not in the coronaries," said professor Filippo Crea of the Istituto di Cardiologia of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome in a statement. "What we have tried to explain is the mechanism which leads to the onset of these symptoms."

One very interesting point is that this syndrome mostly impacts women after menopause, when they are no longer protected by estrogen. A strong emotional shock, like the loss of a loved one, triggers the symptoms.

So what's really happening when someone has a "broken heart" is a decline in coronary micro-circulation. This reduces blood flow through the heart, and the heart does not contract properly for a time, assuming instead a balloon-like shape.

The good news is that it's not a heart attack, and your blood cells are not dying.

In time you may love again.

The study will be published in The European Heart Journal.

("Owner of a Lonely Heart" was Yes' biggest hit of the 1980s. Want to see them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Sign the petition. If Genesis can get in, you can unbreak their hearts.)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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