Donors to prevention and wellness programs at Providence Heart Institute may prevent a poetic condition turned real – broken hearts. Emotional stress can trigger a condition that feels a lot like a heart attack.

We know that stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase the long-term risk of heart disease: high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.

But, according to cardiologist Robert Quintos, M.D., emotional stress has also been linked to an acute condition, takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy can look and feel like a heart attack, but its symptoms have a very different cause. “It’s not like a heart attack,” says Dr. Quintos, “where you typically have a blocked coronary artery. It’s a brief stunning of the heart muscle wall itself, which results in the heart failing to pump.”

According to Dr. Quintos, between one and two percent of patients with heart attack-like symptoms are actually experiencing takotsubo cardiomyopathy. About 90 percent of all reported cases are in women.

Several things can cause the condition. But, says Dr. Quintos, “stress is definitely one that’s been described. The death of a loved one is actually a fairly common trigger for this episode.”

Helping people reduce stress is a key objective of programs at Basecamp, Providence Heart Institute’s new facility dedicated to cardiac prevention and wellness. Thanks to our donors, Basecamp offers classes and resources to replace stress with well-being and mindfulness.

“The effects of stress, I think, are underestimated,” Dr. Quintos says. “Stress, definitely, has real physical consequences – if you feel highly stressed or highly anxious, those things should be addressed.”

For more information about takotsubo cardiomyopathy and what you can do to combat stress, check out this recent article in The Portland Tribune. For information on Basecamp’s stress-reduction classes and resources, visit welcometobasecamp.org. To support prevention and wellness programs, please contact Shawn Fincher at 503.216.6612 or shawn.fincher@providence.org.