COVID-19 Leads to an Excess of Broken Heart Syndrome

MDs affiliated with an Ohio hospital have recently stumbled upon another possible consequence of the current global pandemic. This one is unexpected and the name really does not do the severity of it justice. It is called the “broken heart syndrome”.

This aptly named syndrome, which is known as stress cardiomyopathy in the medical community, has a lot in common with a regular heart attack. Its symptoms include the classics breathlessness and dull, powerful chest pain. Regardless, there is a difference. Doctors consider that stress cardiomyopathy is a result of a temporary weakness in the heart due to a sudden rise in the level of stress hormones.

Stressed Hearts in Cleveland

Possibly not coincidentally, diagnoses of broken heart syndrome surged in the first weeks of the new coronavirus pandemic at two hospitals in Cleveland. A study was performed and, during the months of March and April, broken heart syndrome was the cause in almost 8% of patients that made it to the emergency department of the hospitals with heart-related symptoms, such as chest pain. 8% is a lot when we look at previous data. Pre-pandemic levels used to be between 1.5% and 1.8%.

Of course, we might be tempted to put the blame on the virus itself, not on the hysteria that has developed around it. That would, however be a mistake, because none of the people hospitalized with stress cardiomyopathy tested positive for COVID-19. It is clear that the stress is due to the entire situation.

What Actually Is Stress Cardiomyopathy?

This diagnosis is quite new in the medical community, and doctors have not yet managed to fully understand it, according to Dr. Ankur Kalra, a cardiologist that participated in the research. He also explained that the phenomenon got its nickname because it can appear after a tragic personal event, such as a divorce. Other stressful situations, however, can also cause it.