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This Woman's Heart Actually 'Broke' After Her Dog Died. Here's How It Happened

This Woman's Heart Actually 'Broke' After Her Dog Died. Here's How It Happened
From TIME - October 20, 2017

If you have ever lost a beloved pet, you know how much it can hurt. In fact, the pain could be enough to break your heart, suggests a new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Last year, shortly after the death of her treasured Yorkshire terrier Meha, then 61-year-old Joanie Simpson woke up with symptoms consistent with a heart attack, reports the Washington Post. She was airlifted from her local emergency room to Houston's Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute, where doctors diagnosed her with something a bit more unusual: takotsubo cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as broken-heart syndrome.

The condition can occur after a physical or emotional stress, like the death of a loved one, says Dr. Ilan Wittstein, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins and a broken-heart syndrome researcher (who was not involved with Simpson's case or the new report). "The heart muscle suddenly weakens and does not squeeze the way it should," he says. The heart temporarily stops pumping effectively, which can result in low blood pressure and even congestive heart failure. "A whole variety of emotional triggers can cause it," and it can occur in people who are otherwise healthy.

While broken-heart syndrome looks a lot like a heart attack initially, Wittstein says there are some key physiological differences. In the average heart attack, a clot in a major coronary artery blocks blood flow to the heart, permanently killing some of the muscle. With broken-heart syndrome, however, the major arteries remain clear, but the tiny vessels surrounding the heart are damaged, he says. It's rarely fatal, and the problem can usually be fixed quickly if properly treated.

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