Let’s talk about the heart of it all

Are you adding the finishing touches to your Valentine’s Day plans? Some people go above and beyond to arrange special moments with their sweethearts, but even if you don’t have elaborate plans for the holiday of love, you are important to someone and hopefully, are living heart smart.

Did you know there is something called “broken heart syndrome”? It occurs suddenly when the body is overwhelmed with physical or emotional stress, perhaps at the death of a loved one or when there is a divorce, separation, or romantic rejection. It can happen if you unexpectedly come into a great deal of money, like if you win the lottery.

The symptoms may be similar to heart attack, so the syndrome sometimes is misdiagnosed. It may occur in men, but more often it occurs in women. They experience intense and sudden chest pain in reaction to the surge of stress hormone that is caused by an emotionally stressful event, advises the American Heart Association.

The difference between “broken heart syndrome” and a “heart attack” is that there are no blocked arteries. What happens is that a part of the heart enlarges and doesn’t pump well while the rest of the heart function is normal or the contractions of the heart muscle are more forceful. The most common symptoms of broken heart syndrome are angina and shortness of breath. There may be irregular heartbeat or cardiogenic shock.

Cardiogenic shock is when the heart has been damaged so much that it is unable to supply enough blood to the organs of the body, says the National Institutes of Health. The symptoms happen suddenly after an extremely stressful physical or emotional event.

Broken heart syndrome can cause severe, short-term heart failure. However, it is usually treatable and a full recovery comes about within a few weeks. The condition is rarely fatal.

Learn tools to deal with stress. Positive self-talk takes negatives and turns them into positives. “I can’t do this,” becomes, “I will do the best I can.” Find things to do that make you feel good, like you’ve accomplished something. Take time to smell the roses each day. Perhaps yoga, tai-chi, deep breathing exercises or meditation are something you maybe interested in trying.

When stress becomes too great, stop. Count to 10. Take a few deep breaths. You may even have to turn and walk away, and handle the problem some other time. Go for a walk. Hug someone. Smile. If the problem seems insurmountable, break it down into parts that you can cope with.

As serious as broken heart syndrome may be, there are other heart problems to be aware of.

“An uncommon cause of a heart attack is a spasm of a coronary artery that shuts down blood flow to part of the heart muscle,” advises the Mayo Clinic. “Drugs, such as cocaine, can cause such a life-threatening spasm.

Long term effects of crack cocaine use can cause heart attack and heart disease, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research. Abuse of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and an enlarged or weakened heart. Cigarette smoking isn’t linked only to lung cancer and emphysema, but also to heart disease.

“Many drugs affect the central nervous system and how it works,” according to the American Heart Association. “Many so-called ‘recreational drugs’ can alter the user’s consciousness. The risks associated with use of these drugs include the loss of motor control, impaired judgment and lack of quality control in preparing illegal drugs. There also is the risk from harmful, toxic substances that are added that may not dissolve in the bloodstream and may block blood flow, or perhaps cause reactions to the poisons.

The drugs themselves can be harmful to the heart muscle, such as cocaine and inhalants which cause abnormal heartbeat. Heroin and opiates can be linked to lung failure. Cocaine use is closely linked to chest pain syndromes, heart attack or heart failure, strokes, fatal and non-fatal arrhythmias (aka abnormal heart beat).

“It only happens to other people” can quickly become, “I didn’t realize it could happen to me.”

Take care of yourself. Talk to your doctor about your risks of heart disease. If you smoke, find the way to stop that works for you. Do you know that walking 30 minutes each day reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke? Eat healthy. It is costly, but you are worth it. Do you have a substance abuse problem you’d like help with? Help is within your grasp.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities. February is traditionally known as Heart Month. Love your sweethearts and love yourself enough to be there for them when they need you. Happy Valentine’s Day on Thursday.

For more information about FRC’s education, prevention and treatment programs, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.