Abnormal blood vessel function found in women with broken heart syndrome

Nov 29, 2010

A team of Mayo Clinic researchers has found that patients with broken heart syndrome, also known as apical ballooning syndrome (ABS), have blood vessels that don't react normally to stress. These results offer clues to the cause of this rare syndrome and may help with efforts to identify patients who are more vulnerable to mental stress so that appropriate therapies can be developed. The study is published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Apical ballooning syndrome affects mainly , and a few men. The symptoms mimic those of a , but unlike heart attack patients, ABS patients' heart arteries show no blockages and there is no permanent damage to the heart. Their hearts show the hallmark of ABS - a ballooning and weakening of the tip of the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber.

"This is usually associated with severe mental or in the patient," says Amir Lerman, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist. "Fortunately, for most of these patients, their returns to normal in several weeks, although ABS recurs in about 11 percent of cases."

Besides stress, and functioning of the blood vessels are other suspected causes of ABS. For the study, Dr. Lerman and his research team compared blood vessel responses to in 12 women who had been diagnosed with ABS in the last six months, 12 postmenopausal women control subjects, and four women who had experienced typical heart attacks.

Although the original stressors in the ABS patients included the death of a husband or family member, divorces, claustrophobia and church fundraising, no such extreme measures were employed for the study. Instead, to elicit mental stress, the women were given number and letter memory tests of increasing length and complexity along with subtraction tasks and Stroop word-color conflict tests. Blood samples were taken before and after the stress tests, and blood vessel function was measured with noninvasive devices such as blood pressure arm and finger cuffs.

In the ABS women, researchers found increased vascular reactivity and decreased endothelial function in response to acute mental stress compared to other postmenopausal women and the women who had regular heart attacks.

"In the ABS patients, rather than the blood vessel getting bigger to provide more blood during mental stress, the blood vessel gets smaller and prevents the blood from going where it's needed," explained Dr. Lerman. "This study tells us there is a group of women patients who are more sensitive to mental stress, which is a unique risk factor for them to have an ABS-type heart attack. The body's response to mental stress plays a significant role in ABS syndrome."

Dr. Lerman and his team are working to develop treatment options for ABS patients. "It's possible that we could identify these stress-sensitive patients with a mental stress test," Dr. Lerman says. "If we discover that some patients are more sensitive to mental stress in this way, we could design specific therapies to aid them if they have an ABS attack or to prevent its recurrence."

Explore further: Secret of tetanus toxicity offers new way to treat motor neuron disease

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Simple finger device may help predict future heart attack

Mar 26, 2009

Results of a Mayo Clinic study show that a simple, noninvasive finger sensor test is "highly predictive" of a major cardiac event, such as a heart attack or stroke, for people who are considered at low or moderate risk, according ...

A rush of blood to the head -- anger increases blood flow

Jul 03, 2009

Mental stress causes carotid artery dilation and increases brain blood flow. A series of ultrasound experiments, described in BioMed Central's open access journal Cardiovascular Ultrasound, also found that this dilatory reflex ...

Work stress linked to heart disease

Jan 20, 2006

A British study of 1,000 civil servants found workplace stress is a major factor in the development of heart disease and diabetes.

'Broken heart syndrome' no longer a myth

Jul 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Dying of fright or of a broken heart has long been dismissed as myth, but it’s a real phenomenon that one Northeastern physical therapy professor and researcher has observed and studied.

Recommended for you

Stroke damage mechanism identified

Nov 27, 2014

Researchers have discovered a mechanism linked to the brain damage often suffered by stroke victims—and are now searching for drugs to block it.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.