Just Being Happy Could Give You A Heart Attack, Study Says

It's no surprise that emotional distress caused by deaths, break ups, or bad news can weaken the heart, but according to scientists, a happy heart can be in trouble too.

Researchers in Switzerland analyzed data from patients diagnosed with Takotsubo syndrome, which is a weakening of the left ventricle (the heart's main chamber).

The condition causes the left ventricle to suddenly balloon out at the bottom while the rest of the ventricle remains narrow. TTS is usually triggered by emotional stress and is also referred to as the "broken heart syndrome." People with TTS are more likely to have a heart attack.

The surprise came when they looked at the data of the 4% of patients whose TTS was triggered by emotional distress. Twenty people had heart damage that was caused by something that made them happy, not depressed. Some of the triggers discovered included weddings, birthdays, the birth of a grandchild, or even the jolt people get when their favorite sports team wins the game.

"We have shown that the triggers for TTS can be more varied than previously thought," said Dr. Jelena Ghadri of University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland. "Our findings," she continued, "broaden the clinical spectrum of TTS. They also suggest that happy and sad life events may share similar emotional pathways that can ultimately cause TTS."

Takotsubo syndrome takes its name from a Japanese octopus trap that resembles the distorted shape of the left ventricle of a heart affected by TTS.

The study has shed some light on TTS and how the brain and heart interact. It provides support for other studies that imply that the central nervous system, particularly the amygdala, plays a major role in heart conditions.

The co-author of the study, Dr. Christian Templin, added that "perhaps both happy and sad life events, while inherently distinct, share final common pathways in the central nervous system output, which ultimately lead to TTS."