Happy events can trigger a rare condition which results in a fatal weakening of the heart, researchers have found.
Takosubo syndrome, also known as TTS, has been recognised since 1990. The name is derived from the shape of a Japanese octopus trap which resembles that of the heart in an individual with TTS. The condition involves a sudden weakening of the heart muscles which causes the left ventricle to balloon out in an abnormal manner. It can lead to heart attacks and even death, but the majority of people just experience breathlessness and chest pain, with the condition abating after a few days or weeks.
The researchers analysed data from 1,750 people who had been diagnosed with TTS in nine countries. 485 had an emotional trigger which had been identified. In 96% of these individuals, the emotional trigger was a sad or stressful event such as the loss of a loved one or illness. However, in the remaining 20 individuals the trigger was a happy event such as a birth or a wedding. One of the researchers from the study, Dr Jelena Ghadri, suggests that clinicians should be aware that those suffering breathlessness and chest pain after experiencing a happy event could have TTS. Interestingly, 95% of those with TTS are women in their mid-to-late sixties. It is not known why women are predominantly afflicted with this syndrome.
The physiological mechanisms underlying TTS have yet to be uncovered, but they are thought to include complex links between psychological stimuli, the brain, and the cardiovascular system. The results from this study suggest that both positive and negative life events may share the same processing pathways.
The findings were published in the European Heart journal and can be found here.
Picture credit belongs to BEN GOLDSTEIN/STUDIO D.