Strong emotions

Medical study probes why women suffer “broken-heart syndrome”

(REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

New research suggests that the best treatment for broken-heart syndrome, a condition which mimics a heart attack but doesn’t appear to be caused by heart disease, is not medication but instead yoga, meditation, and other breathing and relaxation techniques. Broken-heart syndrome, which is famous for often being triggered by the death of a loved one, mostly affects women in their 60s or older, and can be brought on by strong emotions such as grief.

A new study led by Dr. Harmony Reynolds, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, found that participants who had suffered broken-heart syndrome had “reduced parasympathetic modulation of heart rate,” even years after their attacks. This meant that the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system charged with calming the body down, wasn’t controlling the patients’ heart rates as it should. For years it was believed that broken-heart syndrome was caused by an overflow of adrenaline from the sympathetic nervous system, a condition treatable by beta blockers. But a large study published in September in the New England Journal of Medicine found that beta blockers were not effectively treating the condition. Instead, Dr. Reynolds suggests patients pursue meditation and guided relaxation, which have been found to improve parasympathetic functions.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.

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