COVID-19 stress leads to rise in broken heart syndrome

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s no secret, we’re living in stressful times. That stress could be leading to more broken hearts. A recent study found cases of broken heart syndrome, also called stress cardiomyopathy, doubled in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Broken heart syndrome has symptoms similar to a heart attack, including shortness of breath or chest pain. However, people with broken heart syndrome usually do not have blocked arteries.

Instead, stress changes the shape of the heart, which affects its ability to pump blood effectively. We are all experiencing different types of stress, from job loss to social isolation and even concerns about ourselves or loved ones getting COVID-19.

“Anything that is a big stress on your body can cause it. So it’s just not COVID, it can be a car accident or a death of a loved one can provoke it. In April and May, when it was bad here, we had several of those cases,” said Dr. Gerald Gacioch, head of cardiology at Rochester General Hospital. “Luckily, the nicest thing about the broken heart syndrome is if it’s recognized and treated appropriately, almost everybody survives and the heart function returns to normal.” 

Experts say it’s important to deal with stress through self-care, including exercise, meditation and prayer. It’s also important to stay connected with family and friends virtually, or on the phone.

Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA Network Open.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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