"Broken-heart syndrome" may be on the rise among middle-aged and older adults

An older woman clasps her hands over her heart.

Takotsubo syndrome (TTS), an uncommon but severe heart condition, appears to be on the rise among middle-aged and older women. The condition, which occurs in less than 5% of the population and is more common in women, causes a temporary enlargement of the heart and creates cardiac muscle weakness following a stressful event. Examples could range from an asthma attack or physical trauma to receiving bad news, such as a terminal diagnosis. The latter have led some to refer to TTS as "broken-heart syndrome." Symptoms appear similar to a heart attack. Chest pain and shortness of breath are the most common.  
After reviewing millions of U.S. patient hospital records, researchers confirmed 135,463 TTS incidents were documented between 2006-2017. Most cases, 88.3%, occurred in women. However, the researchers noted an increase in TTS incidents among women ages 50 and older. Middle-aged men were also more likely to experience TTS compared to younger men during this period. These changes couldn’t be solely due to advancements in research and testing, the authors explained. Therefore, they note additional research is necessary to confirm TTS risk factors, understand how the disease presents in patients, and to study long-term outcomes connected to the cardiac condition.  

The research was partially supported by the NHLBI and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.