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Indianapolis cardiologist says "broken heart syndrome" isn't just seen at Valentine's Day

Posted at 8:59 PM, Feb 13, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — Valentine's Day can be an emotional holiday for those who have found love — or lost it.

The American Heart Association says February is American Heart Month, but doctors at Ascension St. Vincent say they're seeing cases of "broken heart syndrome" about once a week.

The syndrome affects women more than men.

Symptoms include:

  • chest pain
  • trouble breathing
  • fatigue
  • feeling poorly
  • passing out

"People show up with all the signs and symptoms of having a heart attack ... some of their testing looks like they've had a heart attack and usually we treat them diagnostically like they've had one," Dr. Thomas Schleeter, Cardiologist at Ascension St. Vincent Heart Center, said.

Once a patient is in the catheterization lab, doctors can see that unlike a heart attack, the symptoms are not being caused by a blocked artery.

"This usually is triggered by an emotional response, and this is why we talk about broken heart syndrome. It's popular this time of year, but something happens where there is an emotional stress," Dr. Schleeter said.

Broken heart syndrome is survivable, and Schleeter says patients' hearts will look normal after about six weeks. He normally sees about one case each month and says it's important to note that it doesn't always happen with emotional stress.

"Anybody having symptoms of discomfort or pain in the chest, trouble breathing, feeling like they're going to pass out or unexplained fatigue need to seek medical attention," he said.