All chest pain should be checked by a doctor. Because symptoms of broken heart syndrome are similar to those of a heart attack, it is important to seek help right away. Your doctor may not be able to diagnose broken heart syndrome until you have some tests.
Common Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptoms of broken heart syndrome are sudden, sharp chest pain and shortness of breath. Typically these symptoms begin just minutes to hours after experiencing a severe, and usually unexpected, stress.
Because the syndrome involves severe heart muscle weakness, some people also may experience signs and symptoms such as fainting, arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs) (fast or irregular heartbeats), cardiogenic (KAR-de-o-JEN-ik) shock (when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs), low blood pressure, and heart failure.
Differences From a Heart Attack
Some of the signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome differ from those of a heart attack. For example, in people who have broken heart syndrome:
- Symptoms (chest pain and shortness of breath) occur suddenly after having extreme emotional or physical stress.
- EKG(electrocardiogram) results don’t look the same as the results for a person having a heart attack. (An EKG is a test that records the heart’s electrical activity.)
- Blood tests show no signs or mild signs of heart damage.
- Tests show enlarged and unusual movement of the lower left heart chamber (the left ventricle).\
- Tests show no signs of blockages in the coronary arteries.
- Recovery time is quick, usually within days or weeks (compared with the recovery time of a month or more for a heart attack).
Broken heart syndrome can be life threatening in some cases. It can lead to serious heart problems such as:
- Heart failure, a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs
- Heart rhythm problems that cause the heart to beat much faster or slower than normal
- Heart valve problems
The good news is that most people who have broken heart syndrome make a full recovery within weeks. With medical care, even the most critically ill tend to make a quick and complete recovery.