Losing a pet is a heartbreaking experience for any pet parent to endure, and for one woman, it led to a diagnosis of broken heart syndrome.
According to the Washington Post, a woman named Joanie Simpson suffered a physical and emotional pain so strong after the death of her Yorkshire Terrier, Meha, that she wound up in the hospital. Simpson referred to her dog as her "little girl." When her canine died at the age of 9, she described it as "a horrendous thing to have to witness."
Simpson's symptoms, which included excruciating back and chest pain, turned out not to be a heart attack as suspected, but rather a rare diagnosis of broken heart syndrome.
The signs and symptoms of a heart attack and broken heart syndrome are very closely linked, explained Dr. Glenn Levine, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
"People with broken heart syndrome can exhibit chest pain, pressure, or discomfort...it truly seems like they’re having a heart attack," he told petMD. The EKG findings can also suggest that these patients have a complete blockage of one of their coronary arteries, he added.
"Even though they don’t have blocked arteries and the symptoms of a classic heart attack, in which the heart muscle actually dies, what we find is the function of the pumping chamber of the heart is not working normally," Levine noted.
While there is no specific treatment for broken heart syndrome, once the diagnosis is made, a doctor will get the patient started on medications to help "the heart heal and recover over the subsequent weeks," Levine explained.
There are no findings as to what exactly can cause broken heart syndrome (like the death of a loved one, including a pet), but Levine said that women are more susceptible. The fact of the matter is, "it can affect anyone." While broken heart syndrome has been underdiagnosed, Levine said, awareness has increased over the past decade.
If you are experiencing any heart attack-like symptoms, call 911 to get immediate medical care.
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