I know the title is a stretch but how else am I going to get your attention? Anyway, both octopus and squid are cephalopods. But what I am talking about here is takotsubo.
No, it’s not a new type of sushi. Takotsubo is Japanese for "octopus trap". It's a type of heart attack that affects mostly menopausal women, and gets its name from the shape a heart takes when this type of cardiomyopathy occurs. Yep, the lower left ventricle looks just like an octopus trap.
I thought it timely to bring up in February as it is Women’s Heart Health month and most of us celebrate/avoid Valentine's Day this time of year.
And, we have all gotten into some bad habits over the last few years, haven’t we?
So let me scare the bejesus out of you and hopefully educate and motivate you to make some changes at the same time. Here we go.
Tako-tsubo is Japanese for octopus(tako) trap (tsubo) and that is what the heart shape turns into when someone has this type of cardiomyopathy, usually brought on by stress.
It is also known as apical ballooning syndrome or “broken heart syndrome” because it can be brought on by extreme stress, oftentimes associated with strong emotional reactions.
And I would like to bring to your attention that this type of heart attack occurs mostly in women. In fact, 90% of these incidents are found in women between the ages of 58 to 75.
What scientists believe happens is that the sudden influx of stress hormones (ex: adrenaline) trigger change in the heart muscle and/or the blood vessels in the heart, thus preventing the left ventricle from contracting. It balloons out at the bottom instead, resembling the pot that traps an octopus.
It feels like a typical heart attack in that there is a tightening in the chest and a shortness of breath. There can also be palpitations, nausea, vomiting, and collapse associated with an event. Takotsubo can also affect men. But mostly, women in menopause. And thankfully, most recover.
What can trigger an attack?
Almost anything that causes a strong emotional or physical response such as:
A quick drop in blood pressure
Sudden severe pain
An asthma attack
Unexpected loss of a spouse, partner, close friend or pet
Even a surprise party can trigger a takotsubo heart attack! Fortunately most of the patients recover fully within two months of the incident, death is rare, and the abnormalities in the left ventricle clear up within four weeks time. Heart failure can occur in 20% of the incidents.
Treatment recommendations are usually beta blockers, diuretics and ACE inhibitors.
What can we do to avoid this syndrome?
The most obvious thing is to learn how to manage stress more effectively in our lives. And if you have been reading my blog for a while, you know what I am going to say next.
Please try some type of meditative practice to calm your mind. I have been meditating in the morning for almost four years now and recently went on a yoga retreat where we meditated together several times per day. I can’t say enough about how valuable and life-altering this practice can be.
I understand that not everyone is comfortable sitting on a pillow on a floor. So go for a walk in nature, take up knitting, do something that takes you out of your head and relaxes you. That is enough.
Try sighing this week to relieve the tension you may feel as you plow through your morning emails, trying to get to “inbox zero”.
Add listening to great music, moving your body and eating well all contribute to your overall health. And when we feel good and look good, it goes a long way to staying healthy mentally, physically and emotionally. Start incorporating some healthy practices this week to support your lovely heart this month, ladies!