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Clusters of 'broken hearts' may be linked to massive natural disasters
Date:3/27/2014

WASHINGTON (March 27, 2014) Dramatic spikes in cases of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also called broken heart syndrome, were found in two states after major natural disasters, suggesting the stress of disasters as a likely trigger, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session. Authors call for greater awareness among emergency department physicians and other first responders.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome, is a disorder characterized by a temporary enlargement and weakening of the heart muscle, which is often triggered by extreme physical or emotional stress for example, being in a car accident or losing a child or spouse. Previous international studies have also linked broken heart syndrome to natural disasters, including the 2004 earthquake in Japan. This is the first U.S. study to examine the geographic distribution of the condition in relation to such catastrophes.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas identified 21,748 patients diagnosed with primary cases of broken heart syndrome in 2011 using a nationwide hospital discharge database. After mapping the cases by state, Vermont and Missouri emerged as having the highest rate of cases, with 380 cases per million residents in Vermont and 169 per million in Missouri. Most states had fewer than 150 cases per million residents. New Hampshire and Hawaii had the lowest rate of the disease that year.

The rate of broken heart cases in Vermont in 2011 was more than double most other states. This was the same year that Tropical Storm Irene pummeled the state with heavy rain and wind, causing the most devastation Vermont has experienced since the Great Flood of 1927. Similarly, researchers found broken heart syndrome at a rate of 169 cases per million in Missouri in 2011, the same year a massive tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo., demolishing neighborhoods and killing at least 158 people.

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Contact: Beth Casteel
bcasteel@acc.org
202-375-6275
American College of Cardiology
Source:Eurekalert

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