COVID possibly to blame for increase in “broken heart syndrome”

The issue also known as "stress heart syndrome" can be brought on by both physical and emotional stress.
Abstract Background With Medical Heart (Source: Storyblocks)
(Source: Storyblocks)

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The pandemic seems to be putting more and more people into the hospital for one issue in particular: broken heart syndrome. The good news, however, is that you’re not likely to have lasting problems after an episode. But what is this ailment with the fake-sounding name?

“Broken heart syndrome goes by a lot of names,” explains Bryan Health cardiologist Dr. Mathue Baker. “Some people call it ‘stress heart syndrome.’ ‘Takotsubo’ was one of the original names where it was discovered over in Japan.”

Even with the odd-sounding names, the condition itself isn’t so odd. In fact, it’s probably a very familiar one.

“It’s something most people have probably heard of but never really put a name to,” says Dr. Baker. “It’s that situation where, for instance, somebody gets some really terrible news or something shocking happens, and they grab their chest, and then things kind of spiral.”

The condition presents just like a heart attack. In fact, it’s usually not until medical professionals are preparing to treat a heart attack that they discover it’s something else entirely. That’s actually very good news.

Dr. Baker says, “When you shoot that angiogram and you see that the arteries are all normal, and then you take a look at the ventricle and you see the outpouching, you almost breathe a little sigh of relief because one of the characteristic things about this is that it all goes back to normal, and there’s really nothing else like that in cardiology.”

You’ll most likely end up staying in the hospital for a few days, just for observation. It’s rarely a fatal condition, and it usually doesn’t show up twice in the same person. As for who gets it, that’s something of a mystery, although the stress aspect could be influenced by the Coronavirus pandemic. Emotional stress is a factor, but that’s only about half the story.

“About half of those cases also come from physical stress, so just being sick,” says Dr. Baker. “At this time in history we have very, very large numbers of very, very sick people, so I think a lot of it is just that perfect storm coming together.”

The thinking is that some people may be more susceptible to this type of heart problem, and they just aren’t able to hold up to the stress. Again, though, it may be scary, but it’s rarely a lasting problem.

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