Broken Heart Syndrome

You can die of a broken heart — it’s scientific fact — and my heart has been breaking since that very first day we met. I can feel it now, aching deep behind my rib cage the way it does every time we’re together, beating a desperate rhythm: Love me. Love me. Love me.
Abby McDonald, Getting Over Garrett Delaney

I recently learned about broken heart syndrome when Dr. Marla Shapiro was talking about it on TV. She mentioned that it was first described in 1990 in Japan as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.  Takotsubo is a Japanese term for an octopus trap because of the ballooning shape of the heart during an attack. What is broken heart syndrome?  It is a temporary heart condition caused by an extremely stressful event.  It is a recently recognized heart problem and it can strike you even if you are healthy.

People with broken heart syndrome think that they are having a heart attack when they have a sudden chest pain.  In broken heart syndrome, there is a temporary disruption of the heart’s normal pumping function while the rest of the heart functions normally or with more forceful contractions.

There may be shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats (Arrhythmias) or cardiogenic shock can occur. Cardiogenic shock occurs when a suddenly weakened heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.  This can be fatal it it is not treated right away.  In fact, Cardiogenic shock is the most common cause of death among people who die from heart attacks.  Any time you experience chest pain, you should call 911 and get emergency medical care.  All chest pain should be checked by a doctor.

Women are more likely than men to have broken heart syndrome.  It can be brought on by the death of a loved one, divorce, a break-up, physical separation, betrayal or romantic rejection, a frightening medical diagnosis, domestic abuse, natural disasters, job loss, asthma attack, car accident or major surgery.  It can even occur after a good shock such as winning the lottery.  It is more commonly seen among post-menopausal women. Research is ongoing to find out what causes this disorder and how to diagnose and treat it.

As mentioned before the most common symptoms of broken heart syndrome are chest pain, shortness of breath and very rapid or irregular heartbeat.  WebMD mentions two other symptoms, arm pain and sweating.  It is usually treatable.  Most people who experience it have a full recovery within weeks and and the risk of it happening again is low although in some rare cases it can be fatal.  The only way you can be certain if you have broken heart syndrome is for you to have some tests.  These tests used include the following:

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest x-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Blood tests
  • Coronary angiogram

If you have any questions about Broken Heart syndrome, please visit Seconds Count and download their PDF file.

A broken heart is a real condition.   In 2010 the Wall Street Journal wrote an article of a 63 year old woman named Dorothy Lee who lost her husband on night when they were driving home from a Bible Study group.  He had suffered from a heart attack. At the hospital after she learned of his death, Dorothy began to experience sudden sharp pains in her chest, felt faint and went unconscious.

An X-ray angiogram revealed that she hadn’t suffered a heart attack.  There was no blood clot and her coronary arteries were completely clear. Dorothy had suffered from broken heart syndrome.  It was triggered by the sudden loss of her husband of 40 years.  She was literally heartbroken.  Thankfully, she was at the hospital when she had her symptoms and she didn’t die although the episode severely weakened her heart.  She required a special balloon pump to support her left ventricle during the first couple of days in the hospital.  Five days later she was discharged.

Despite being cautioned by doctors, she attended her husband’s funeral. She was able work through her grief positively and spiritually.   To date she has had no effects of the heart episode.

It is extremely important that if you or someone else experience any chest pain that you don’t ignore it or feel embarrassed to call for help.  At the first sign of symptoms, get help. This can save your life or someone else’s life and limit the damage to the heart.

A broken heart is not just something out of a romance novel.  It is a reality.

 

 

broken heart syndrome

 

Sources:  American Heart Association; Mayo Clinic; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; Wikipedia; Women Heart; WebMD; Uptodate

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Pregnant Women And Jogging

This evening I was watching a news story about pregnant women and jogging and was surprised to learn that one of the women featured was nine months pregnant.  I couldn’t imagine jogging so close to having a baby.  At nine months I was waddling and anxious to give birth.  The woman on TV looked fantastic.  She was in great shape.  This was her ninth pregnancy.  Another woman received nasty comments because of a picture of her jogging while pregnant.  She was called “selfish” and one person went as far as saying that child services should be called.

Is it safe for to run during pregnancy?   I read on the Baby Centre website that it depends. If you ran regularly before getting pregnant, it’s fine to continue — as long as you take some precautions and first check with your doctor or midwife.

But pregnancy isn’t the time to start a running routine, according to Julie Tupler, a registered nurse, certified personal trainer, and founder of Maternal Fitness, a fitness program for pregnant women and new moms in New York City.

Pregnancy’s also not the time to start training for a marathon, a triathlon, or any other race, cautions Tupler. “The first trimester is when the baby’s major organs are forming, and overheating’s a real issue. If a woman’s core temperature gets too high, it could cause problems with the baby, so why risk it? Instead, train for the marathon of labor by strengthening your abdominals and pelvic floor muscles,” she says.

Whether you’re pregnant or not, running can be hard on your knees. During pregnancy, your joints loosen, which makes you more prone to injury. So unless you’re an avid runner, you should probably steer clear of this form of workout at least until after your baby arrives. For now, focus on exercises that are safe for pregnancy.

What are the benefits of running during pregnancy?

According to Zara Watt, who specialises in training for pre- and postnatal fitness, “Research and statistics show that women who exercise during pregnancy avoid unnecessary health risks to themselves and their unborn babies, and experience less labour pain because exercise has strengthened their muscles. They also have lower fat content and, more importantly, achieve a faster recovery following the birth of their baby. I’ve worked with pregnant women who also believe that regular exercise during pregnancy helped them with muscular tension, aches and pains, posture and circulation.”

On the Baby Centre website, the benefits of running during pregnancy are:

– It is a quick and effective way to work your heart and body, giving you a mental and physical boost when you feel tired.

– It’s easy to fit into your schedule.

They offer the following tips for each trimester:

First trimester tips

Follow the usual precautions, such as drinking lots of water before, during, and after your run. Dehydration can decrease blood flow to the uterus and may even cause premature contractions.

Wear shoes that give your feet plenty of support, especially around the ankles and arches. Invest in a good sports bra to keep your growing breasts well supported.

Second trimester tips

Your center of gravity’s shifting as your belly grows, leaving you more vulnerable to slips and falls. For safety, stick to running on flat pavement.

If you lose your balance, do your best to fall correctly, says Tupler: Try to fall to your side or on your behind, to avoid trauma to the abdomen. Or put your hands out to break your fall before your abdomen hits the ground.

Consider running on a track as your pregnancy progresses. Not only is the track surface easier on your joints, but you may feel safer running somewhere where you won’t get stranded in case of an emergency.

Third trimester tips

Be as careful as you’ve been during the first two trimesters. And remember: If you feel too tired to go for a run, listen to your body and take a break. Being sedentary is unhealthy, but pushing yourself too hard is also harmful.

Most avid runners find that their jogging pace slows down considerably during the third trimester — a fast walk may be a better choice as your due date approaches.

Warning signs

Never run to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself to the limit forces your body to use up oxygen that should be going to your baby.

Stop running or jogging immediately and call your doctor or midwife if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • difficulty breathing, especially when resting
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • chest pain
  • muscle weakness
  • calf pain or swelling
  • preterm labor (contractions)
  • decreased fetal movement
  • fluid leaking from your vagina

In the news story, a medical doctor warned that if you are panting too hard, that means that the baby is not getting enough oxygen.  I suggest that you check with your doctor before jogging or doing any kind of activity.   If you don’t think it’s a good idea to jog during pregnancy, that’s fine but don’t judge a woman who decides that it’s something she wants to do.  It doesn’t make her selfish or unfit to be a mother.  She is trying to stay in shape and would never knowingly endanger her unborn child.

If you are interested in learning more about jogging during pregnancy, check out this site for guidelines.

Pregnancy At 40 and Older – The Risks

I got pregnant when I was forty and had our son when I was forty-one.  It was a textbook pregnancy.  There were no complications.  I didn’t have to have an epidural and the actual delivery took under fifteen minutes.  The contractions although they were bad, they didn’t last long.  I have heard some horror stories of women being in labor for more than 24 hours.  I couldn’t imagine going through that.

In a couple of months our son will be celebrating his third birthday.  Wow.  Where did the time go?  It seemed like only the other day I was holding him in my arms for the first time.  The pregnancy was an experience I feel truly blessed to have had.  At the time, though, I didn’t want to go through another one.  I didn’t feel mentally or physically or even emotionally up to it.  Before I had my son, I had always planned that when I got married, I would love to have twins–a boy and a girl.  That of course didn’t happen.  God blessed us with a son.  And we have decided that we wouldn’t have more children because of my age.  I am heading toward my mid-forties.  We worry about the risks and are not willing to take them.

I have been adamant about not having a second child but I would have a couple women push me to consider it.  There is one in particular who works in the office cafeteria.  Every time I see her, she manages to bring the conversation around to me having another baby.  I try to change the topic but she is persistent.  I try to tell her that at my age I should not even be considering this but she brushes that excuse aside.  She seems to believe that age is not a factor.  Once when she broached the subject, I had a moment of insanity when I actually wanted to get pregnant again.  Of course when I spoke to my fiance, he snapped me right back to reality.

There are times when I entertain the thought and imagine what the baby would look like.  I like the idea of having a little girl who will look like her Daddy.  But then, I think about the risks.

What are the risks?  Are they worth taking?  I decided to find out via the Internet. 

With today’s medical technology, prenatal care, and well educated doctors women have the best chances ever to become pregnant and have successful pregnancies after age 40. However, the risks are there and women in this age range should be aware of them.

One risk many women over the age of 40 are most concerned with is genetic disorders. As a woman ages her entire body does as well, including her eggs. Many times Down Syndrome results from an older woman’s egg simply not dividing like it might have when the woman was younger. Of course, if you are age 40 or more and you want to have a child you should not let the slightly higher risk of genetic disorders or birth defects scare you. A woman who becomes pregnant at age 35 has a risk of 1 in 365 of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome. That risk increases to 1 in 100 with a woman 40 years of age and approximately to 1 in 40 for women 45 years of age. Any woman who becomes pregnant has a risk of about 3% to have a child with a birth defect. This percentage more than doubles for women over 40, but still the 6-8% risk is still relatively low.

These statistics seem pretty scary to women who are 40 years old or older but want to have a baby. However, the statistics are just that and while one out of ever 100 babies has Down’s Syndrome there are 99 other babies that are perfect. The best thing to do is visit your doctor before you become pregnant. Your doctor will advise you of your risks and give you a plan to help reduce risks. This includes eating healthy, exercising, treating any current diseases or disorders, and simply being as healthy as possible before pregnancy begins. At that point you will be better prepared to have a baby, your pregnancy will go smoother, and you will more than likely have a perfectly healthy baby.

There are tests that can be performed early in the pregnancy to see if your baby has a higher chance of having a genetic disorder or birth defect as well. As long as you work with your doctor and have prenatal care you will more than likely have a healthy baby at age 40 or older (http://www.amazingpregnancy.com/pregnancy-articles/543.html). 

I had these tests done and everything was perfect.  There were no concerns.  For the first five months of my pregnancy I was mindful of having a miscarriage.  I learned that not only is it more difficult to conceive after 40, but that the miscarriage rate increases with both maternal and paternal age, says Michelle Collins, a certified nurse midwife and an assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville. One woman said that she had her first child at 39 but at 43 she was having problems conceiving and had three miscarriages in one year.   (http://www.pregnancytoday.com/articles/healthy-safe-pregnancy/pregnancy-after-40-6175/). 

If you are forty or older and are considering having a baby, talk to your doctor first.  Learn what your risks are and if you are willing to take them.  If after talking to your doctor, you decide you want to go through with it, then start taking the prenatal vitamins, Folic Acid supplements and doing the necessary things.  One person commented, if it is God’s will for you to have a child, it will happen.  He let it happen with two women who were pushing way past 40–Sarah and Elizabeth and they both had healthy baby boys and back  then they didn’t have the medical technology we have today.  If I believed that God wanted to bless us with another child, I would go through with another pregnancy, trusting that everything will turn out just fine. 

If you are a 40 or 40+ year old woman and are serious about getting pregnant again, don’t wait any longer.  Consult your doctor and do what you need to do.  I wish that all goes well for you and your baby.