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Study Shows Happiness Can Trigger 'Broken Heart Syndrome'

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Cardiologists believe they’ve found a surprising new trigger for the condition commonly known as “broken heart syndrome”: joy. The doctors have just published their findings in the European Heart Journal

The technical term is takotsubo syndrome (TTS) or takotsubo myopathy. Sudden weakening of heart muscles can distort the heart’s left ventricle, forcing it to expand at the bottom and resulting in a shape similar to a takotsubo, or Japanese octopus trap. Because TTS is frequently triggered by intense emotions like anger, fear, and grief, it’s also known as “broken heart syndrome.” The condition most frequently affects older women, but has been known to affect a wide range of adults.

But the authors of the new paper weren’t so sure “broken heart” was the right term. They wondered if happy events could trigger TTS, too. 

To find out, they tapped into the International Takotsubo Registry, which yielded case reports on 1750 patients from nine different countries. Of those 1750 cases, 485 had clear emotional triggers. Most of these were clearly negative: 30 patients were diagnosed after the death of a spouse, and 16 after attending funerals. Car accidents triggered TTS in 11 patients, while family arguments accounted for another 17 diagnoses. One person developed TTS after a nightmare, while another came down with the condition after losing her purse. The extent of the emotional trauma varied, but the majority fit the “broken heart” stereotype.

But there were a few patients whose TTS arose after happy or exciting events. The doctors classified 20 people, or 4 percent of the emotional-onset TTS cases, as experiencing what they termed “happy heart syndrome.” Triggers included the birth of great-grandchildren, winning at the casino, attending a wedding, and getting good news from a doctor. Three of the 20 cases were related to birthday parties. The authors found this especially interesting, because, as they noted, previous studies have shown that people predisposed to heart problems are 27 percent more likely to have a cardiac event on their birthdays. 

The “happy heart syndrome” patients were very similar to those in the “broken heart” category, with one exception: Their hearts were more likely to have ballooned up mid-ventricle (as opposed to near the bottom). 

A 4 percent prevalence is pretty small, but the researchers say it’s worth further study. "We have shown that the triggers for TTS can be more varied than previously thought,” co-author Jelena Ghadri said in a press release. “A TTS patient is no longer the classic ‘broken hearted’ patient, and the disease can be preceded by positive emotions too. Clinicians should be aware of this and also consider that patients who arrive in the emergency department with signs of heart attacks, such as chest pain and breathlessness, but after a happy event or emotion, could be suffering from TTS just as much as a similar patient presenting after a negative emotional event."

While it's a recent discovery, the concept isn't new. "We believe that TTS is a classic example of an intertwined feedback mechanism involving the psychological and/or physical stimuli, the brain and the cardiovascular system,” Ghadri’s co-author Christian Templin continued in the press release. “Perhaps both happy and sad life events, while inherently distinct, share final common pathways in the central nervous system output, which ultimately lead to [this condition]."

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Netherlands Officials Want to Pay Residents to Bike to Work
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Thinking about relocating to the Netherlands? You might also want to bring a bike. Government officials are looking to compensate residents for helping solve their traffic congestion problem and they want businesses to pay residents to bike to work, as The Independent reports.

Owing to automobile logjams on roadways that keep drivers stuck in their cars and cost the economy billions of euros annually, Dutch deputy infrastructure minister Stientje van Veldhoven recently told media that she's endorsing a program that would pay employees 19 cents for every kilometer (0.6 miles) they bike to work.

That doesn't sound like very much, but perhaps citizens who need to trek several miles each way would appreciate the cumulative boost in their weekly paychecks. For employers, the benefit would be a healthier workforce that might take fewer sick days and reduce parking needs.

Veldhoven says she also plans on designing a program that would assist employers in supplying workers with bicycles. The goal is to have 200,000 people opting for manual transportation over cars. If the program proceeds, it might find a receptive population. The Netherlands is already home to 22.5 million bikes, more than the 17.1 million people living there. In Amsterdam, a quarter of residents bike to work.

There's no timeline for implementing the pay-to-bike plan, but early trial studies indicate that the expense might not have to be a long-term prospect. Study subjects continued to bike to work even after the financial rewards stopped.

[h/t The Independent]

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New Health-Monitoring Litter Box Could Save You a Trip to the Vet
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Unsure if your cat is sick or just acting aloof per usual? A “smart toilet” for your fur baby could help you decide whether a trip to the vet is really necessary.

Enter the Pet Care Monitor: More than a litter box, the receptacle is designed to analyze cat urine for health issues, The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo reports. Created by the Japan-based Sharp Corporation—better known for consumer electronics such as TVs, mobile phones, and the world's first LCD calculator—the product will be available for purchase on the company’s website starting July 30 (although shipping limitations may apply).

Sensors embedded in the monitor can measure your cat’s weight and urine volume, as well as the frequency and duration of toilet trips. That information is then analyzed by an AI program that compares it to data gleaned from a joint study between Sharp Corp and Tottori University in Japan. If there are any red flags, a report will be sent directly to your smartphone via an application called Cocoro Pet. The monitor could be especially useful for keeping an eye on cats with a history of kidney and urinary tract problems.

If you have several cats, the company offers sensors to identify each pet, allowing separate data sets to be collected and analyzed. (Each smart litter box can record the data of up to three cats.)

The Pet Care Monitor costs about $225, and there’s an additional monthly fee of roughly $3 for the service. Sharp Corporation says it will continue developing health products for pets, and it has already created a leg sensor that can tell if a dog is nervous by measuring its heart and respiratory rates.

[h/t The Asahi Shimbun]

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