Woman Who Mistakenly Ate Wasabi Instead Of Avocado Diagnosed With A 'Broken Heart'

It's certainly not the first time someone has eaten a large amount of wasabi, thinking it was avocado, but the medical revelation that followed in this case is believed to be a world first.

An Isreali woman was hospitalised with so-called “broken heart syndrome” after mistaking wasabi for avocado, according to a report recently detailed in a medical journal.

The woman in her late 60s was at a wedding when she ate a “large amount” of wasabi paste -- a Japanese horseradish -- thinking it was avocado dip, according to a report published in British Medical Journal Case Reports this week.

Just a few minutes later, she felt a "sudden pressure in her chest radiating to her arms", the report said.

"She was sure it was an avocado, that is why she took a full spoon of it," case report author Dr. Alona Finkel-Oron, a physician at Soroka University Medical Center in Israel, said.

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose and treat certain cardiovascular conditions inlcuding broken heart syndrome. IMAGE: BMJ Case Reports.

The woman presented to an emergency department the following day where doctors performed an electrocardiogram (ECG), which revealed the woman was suffering from takotsubo cardiomyopathy, colloquially known as “broken heart syndrome".

But initial tests suggested the woman might be having a heart attack -- her blood pressure was elevated and the ECG, which measures electrical activity in the heart, was abnormal, the report said.

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Broken heart syndrome is a left ventricular dysfunction that typically occurs after sudden intense emotional or physical stress and mimics a heart attack.

Roughly one third of cases have a physical trigger (like an asthma flare-up, surgery or chemotherapy) according to a previous study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Women are far more likely to present with the condition.

"The mechanism behind takotsubo cardiomyopathy is still a mystery," report authors said.

While the exact reason that broken heart syndrome happens is unknown, one hypothesis is that a surge of stress hormones are toxic to the heart.

The researchers suggest this is the first time the condition has been triggered by food consumption alone. Previous reports have described food-related takotsubo as caused by anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction), not the food itself.

"Broken heart syndrome" affects more women then men. IMAGE: Getty Images.

Although people can die of a broken heart or be more likely to develop heart problems in the future, the condition typically isn’t fatal, and most people recover fine with no special treatment.

The woman spent four days in the hospital but fully recovered within a month.

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A study released in July found one in six people with broken heart syndrome also developed cancer.

In a study of 1600 people, researchers found "a substantial number of [broken heart syndrome] patients show an association with malignancy", or cancer.

Of those respondents with cancer, nearly 90 percent were women.

Broken heart syndrome was first identified as a condition in 1990, when doctors noticed people with heart attack symptoms had none of the signature blood clots that cause them.

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