Broken heart syndrome on the rise in recent years, study finds

Cases of broken heart syndrome rose steadily each year from 2006-17, especially among older women, according to research published Oct. 13 in Journal of the American Heart Association. 

Broken heart syndrome is often brought on by physical or emotional stress and causes the heart's main pumping chamber to temporarily swell and pump poorly. Its symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, mimic those of a heart attack. While people often recover in the days or weeks after the initial phase, studies focused on the condition's longer-term effects are still underway. 

For this study, researchers looked at 135,463 cases of broken heart syndrome across U.S. hospitals from 2006-17. They found cases rose steadily each year for both men and women, though women made up 88.3 percent of the cases. 

Among women between the ages of 50 and 74, rates of broken heart syndrome were at least six to 12 times higher relative to its prevalence in men and younger women. 

"This finding could be caused by the greater propensity for excess sympathetic activation in younger age, combined with a greater susceptibility to cardiac stress and injury in older age, converging in middle-aged people at risk and particularly women," researchers said. 

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