24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
Fax: (361)578-5500

Medical Disorders
Basic InformationLookupsLatest News
Coronavirus Deaths in Nursing Homes Climbing AgainGet Dizzy When Standing Up? It Could Be Risk Factor for DementiaLevels of Anxiety, Addiction, Suicidal Thoughts Are Soaring in the PandemicWhat Was More Deadly for New Yorkers – COVID-19 or the 1918 Flu?Sweden's No-Lockdown Policy Didn't Achieve 'Herd Immunity'U.S. Coronavirus Death Tally Hits New High for SummerPfizer's COVID Vaccine Shows 'Robust' Results in Early TrialFrequent COVID Tests Key to College Reopening: ExpertsMany Community Outbreaks of COVID Traced to Restaurants, BarsPut the Brakes on Driving After a ConcussionStrict, Costly Measures Needed to Reopen Schools: StudyCOVID-19 Risk Up to 7 Times Higher for Young VapersAnother COVID Hazard: False InformationHospitals Full, Doctors Treated Her Severe COVID-19 at HomeFDA Approves First Oral Drug for Spinal Muscular AtrophyCOVID-19 Fears Stop Americans From Seeking Help for Heart EmergenciesAHA News: What Do Heart Patients Need to Know About COVID-19 Now?Have Diabetes? Don't Lose Sight of Danger to Your EyesBlood Test Might Spot Most Dangerous COVID-19 CasesAs Schools Reopen, Report Shows 97,000 U.S. Kids Infected With COVID in Late JulyWhat Parents Need to Know About Teens and ConcussionsBaby's Meningitis Case Highlights Growing Danger of Antibiotic ResistanceAs in Adults, Minority Kids Hit Hardest by COVID-19Simple Test Shows Which Face Masks Are BestBeware of Hand Sanitizers Containing MethanolWhat Athletes Should Know About COVID-19, Heart Damage and Working OutCOVID-19 Causing More Stress in America Than Other Nations: SurveyWill Your Kid Play School Sports This Fall? Here's Some Guidance on Doing It SafelyScientists Call for Broader Use of Faster COVID TestsTwo Common Nutrients Might Keep Vertigo at BayPeople Are Dying, Going Blind After Drinking Hand Sanitizer, CDC WarnsMore Social Media Use, More Fake COVID NewsSkip the 'Maskne,' Not the MaskObesity Ups Odds for Severe COVID-19, But Age MattersSeven States Join Pact to Speed Coronavirus TestingStudy Casts Doubt on Value of Cholesterol DrugsCOVID-19 Fears Had Sick, Injured Americans Avoiding ERsCancer Diagnoses Plunge as Americans Avoid Screening During PandemicMysterious Paralyzing Illness in Kids Is Set to Return, CDC WarnsMany Older Americans Staying Strong in the PandemicCoronavirus Cases Now Climbing in the MidwestCould the First Drug That Slows Arthritis Be Here?Schools Can Reopen Safely If Precautions in Place, Australian Study ShowsFace Masks, Yes, But Don't Forget Hand-Washing TooEven With PPE, Risk of COVID-19 Still High for Frontline WorkersCoronavirus Pandemic Becoming Far More Widespread, Birx SaysGuard Against Lyme Disease This SummerKids 'Efficient' Transmitters as COVID-19 Raced Through a Georgia Summer CampCollege Students Will Need COVID Tests Every 2-3 Days for Campus Safety: StudyAHA News: Sustained High Blood Pressure May Damage Brain Vessels
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics


'Broken Heart Syndrome' Has Risen During Pandemic: Study

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jul 9th 2020

new article illustration

THURSDAY, July 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors at one Ohio hospital system have discovered yet another possible consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic: More cases of "broken heart syndrome."

The condition -- which doctors call stress cardiomyopathy -- appears similar to a heart attack, with symptoms such as chest pain and breathlessness. But its cause is different: Experts believe it reflects a temporary weakness in the heart muscle owing to a surge in stress hormones.

And at two Cleveland Clinic hospitals, diagnoses of stress cardiomyopathy shot up in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During March and April, the new study found, stress cardiomyopathy was diagnosed in nearly 8% of patients who arrived in the emergency department with chest pain and other possible heart symptoms.

That was four to five times higher than rates seen in pre-pandemic periods, which hovered between 1.5% and 1.8%.

And while COVID-19 can lead to heart complications, none of the patients with stress cardiomyopathy tested positive for the infection, said Dr. Ankur Kalra, a cardiologist who worked on the study.

"That suggests this is not a reflection of the virus, but the stress of the pandemic," he said.

Stress cardiomyopathy is a relatively new diagnosis, and doctors are still trying to understand it fully, Kalra said. But it got its nickname because it may arise after an emotionally difficult event, like a divorce or death of a loved one.

But other stressful situations -- from a traffic accident to surgery -- can also be triggers, Kalra said.

The condition may not arise immediately after the trigger, however, said Dr. David Kass, a professor of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Kass said a person could, for example, develop stress cardiomyopathy after living through an earthquake then dealing with the fear of another one.

The condition is thought to occur when the heart muscle is overwhelmed by a flood of catecholamines -- better known as stress hormones, according to Kass. That temporarily reduces the heart's pumping ability.

The condition is quite distinct from a heart attack, he explained. There are no blockages in the arteries, and while heart muscle cells may be temporarily stunned, they do not die off.

The symptoms do mimic a heart attack, said Dr. James Januzzi, a trustee with the American College of Cardiology and a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

But as tests are done, he said, the true cause grows clearer.

For one, Januzzi explained, stress cardiomyopathy looks different from a heart attack on electrocardiogram, which measures the heart's electrical activity. And when doctors do an angiogram to peer inside the heart arteries, they'll find no blockages in a patient with stress cardiomyopathy.

The good news, Januzzi said, is that people with the condition typically recover quickly, with no long-term heart damage.

Kass said that given all the stresses of the pandemic -- from fear of the virus to job losses to social isolation -- it's not hard to imagine why stress cardiomyopathy would increase.

But he also sounded a note of caution on the findings: From the start of the pandemic, many U.S. hospitals saw a significant drop in heart attack patients -- possibly because people feared a trip to the ER and were not calling 911.

And that, Kass said, could be one reason why the percentage of stress cardiomyopathy diagnoses rose.

"The denominator has changed," he said. "So it's hard to know whether this is actually happening a lot."

Januzzi agreed that could be a factor.

What's interesting, he said, is that none of the patients tested positive for COVID-19. Cases of "COVID-associated" stress cardiomyopathy have been reported in patients with the infection, Januzzi noted, but cases associated with the pandemic itself would be new.

And it's "very plausible," he said, that these stressful times could be leading to a true increase in the condition.

For the general public, Januzzi said, it's critical to act on symptoms of chest pain and difficulty breathing: Get to the ER and let doctors diagnose it.

Kalra agreed. He also urged people to do their best to manage stress -- getting regular exercise, for example, or using meditation to quiet the mind.

The findings were published online July 9 in JAMA Network Open.

More information

Johns Hopkins Medicine has more on stress cardiomyopathy.