It typically occurs after severe mental or emotional stress
such as the loss of a spouse or child. The symptoms mimic those of a heart attack
, but unlike heart attack patients, these patients to not have blockages in their heart arteries.
The symptoms are very similar to a heart attack and the patient often is initially diagnosed and treated as if they are experiencing a heart attack, however, they are actually experiencing a ballooning and weakening of the left ventricle, which is the pumping chamber of the heart. This temporary weakening of the heart is often completely reversible.
It's thought that when the individual experiences severe emotional stress, stress hormones may be released causing temporary constriction of the arteries of the heart weakening the heart wall.
Most heart attacks are caused by a complete or near complete blockage of a heart artery as opposed to constriction of the artery. True heart attacks typically occur in individuals with risk factors such as high cholesterol
, hypertension, tobacco use, or diabetes
. Broken heart syndrome can occur in individuals that do not otherwise have known risk factors for heart attacks.
Panic could help precipitate a heart attack if the person has underlying risk factors for heart attacks. Hyperventilating
can lead to lower oxygen
levels in the body leading to heart attacks to those with other risk factors. Panic attacks
that cause elevations in blood pressure
or heart rate
could theoretically cause a cholesterol plaque
to break off causing a blockage of a heart blood vessel leading to a heart attack. However, the frequency of this occurring is not specifically known.