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12 February 2016, 14:34
Scientists are to explore for the first time the long-term effects of so-called "broken heart syndrome''.
The condition, known to medics as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, often follows an episode of acute stress such as a bereavement, accident or divorce.
Sufferers experience heart attack-like symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath but, while the heart muscle is weakened, there is no evidence of a blockage in the coronary arteries.
Researchers at Aberdeen University will study the long-term effects of the untreatable and little-understood condition after they were awarded a grant from the British Medical Association.
Dr Dana Dawson, a senior lecturer in cardiovascular medicine and consultant cardiologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said: "While the condition was originally thought to be self-limiting, we were surprised to see that, later, patients still lack energy, or are unable to return to work.
"There are also reports from other groups that these after-effects continue to linger with sufferers - albeit in a non-specific way. It's difficult to say definitively with the current knowledge what is wrong with them.
"At the moment, we believe the condition is under-diagnosed because many front door physicians don't consider it as a possibility.
"Certainly we feel the number of cases diagnosed is far smaller than the real amount of sufferers.''
The study will see Dr Dawson and her team look closely at the activity of the heart using magnetic resonance imaging and test the ability of the heart and body to participate in physical activity.
Where someone is not able to exercise to the level they should expect, researchers hope to establish whether it is down to the heart or lungs, or something else.
Dr Dawson said: "We will recall many of the previously diagnosed patients and hope to examine thoroughly to what extent their hearts have recovered.
"Do they ever recover fully? Do they remain at an intermittent level of recovery, explaining why they couldn't do what they did before? Or is it a psychological issue?''