CLOSE
iStock
iStock

Study Shows Happiness Can Trigger 'Broken Heart Syndrome'

iStock
iStock

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]."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
The Very Disgusting Reason You Should Always Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them
iStock
iStock

It’s sometimes assumed that clothing with a price tag still dangling from the sleeve can skip an initial wash. Someone else may have tried it on, sure, but they didn’t run a marathon in it. Why not just throw it in the closet as soon as you get home?

One big reason: lice. As The Independent reports, Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center, told NBC's Today show recently that clothing fresh off store racks can harbor infestations of lice, scabies, or fungus.

You might be familiar with head lice as the dreaded insects that occupy the scalp and give school health monitors cause for concern. Head lice can be transmitted via clothing and other fabrics, and anyone who tried on a shirt or dress before you did can be a carrier. While they only live for one or two days without a blood meal, that’s still enough time to cause problems if something is being tried on frequently.

Scabies is far more insidious. The mites are too small to see, but the allergic reaction they cause by burrowing into your skin to lay eggs will be obvious.

Both scabies and lice can be treated with topical solutions, but it’s better to kill them by washing new clothes in hot water. A good soak can also get rid of formaldehyde, a common chemical used in fabrics to help ward off mold in case stock gets wet in transit. Formaldehyde can cause allergic skin reactions. For all of these reasons, it’s best to hit the washing machine before those new pants ever hit your hanger.

[h/t Independent]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Health
How Promoting Handwashing Got One 19th Century Doctor Institutionalized
iStock
iStock

Regardless of how often we actually do it, it's common knowledge that washing our hands before eating, after coughing, and after using the bathroom is good for us. But the connection between handwashing and health wasn't always accepted as fact. As Danielle Bainbridge explains in the PBS web series Origin of Everything, the first doctor to campaign for cleanliness in hospitals was not only shunned by other medical professionals, but ended up in an insane asylum.

Prior to the 19th century, handwashing primarily existed in the context of religious ceremonies and practices. It plays a role in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Buddhism in some form or another. But washing up to stop the spread of disease wasn't really a thing for most of history. People weren't aware of germs, so instead of microbes, they blamed illness on everything from demons to bad air.

Then, in 1846, a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis made a breakthrough observation. He noticed that women giving birth with the help of midwives were less likely to die than those treated by doctors. He determined that because doctors were also performing autopsies on victims of puerperal fever (a bacterial infection also known as childbed fever), they were somehow spreading the disease to their other patients. Semmelweis started promoting handwashing and instrument sterilization in his clinic, and the spread of puerperal fever dropped as a result.

Despite the evidence to support his theory, his peers in the medical community weren't keen on the idea of blaming patient deaths on doctors. Partly due to his commitment to the controversial theory, Semmelweis was shunned from his field. He suffered a mental breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital, where he died a few weeks later.

Germ theory did eventually become more mainstream as the century progressed, and washing hands as a way to kill unseen pathogens started gaining popularity. Even so, it wasn't until the 1980s that the CDC released the first official guidelines instructing people on best handwashing practices.

If this story suddenly has you in the mood to practice good hygiene, here's the best way to wash your hands, according to experts.

[h/t Origin of Everything]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios