Researchers have found another growing health problem associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. More Americans now are experiencing the broken heart syndrome that occurs after an intense emotional or physical stress.
The new study, published in JAMA Open Network, comes amid the increasing rates of stress and anxiety in the U.S. because of the spread of coronavirus. But researchers said broken heart syndrome, also known as takotsubo syndrome, affects more people who did not catch the virus.
However, researchers noted COVID-19 does not directly cause broken heart syndrome. The pandemic brought stressors that affected the emotional and physical health of people and contributed to heart problems.
“The increase in socioeconomic and psychological stress from the pandemic has literally increased stress cardiomyopathy,” Ankur Kalra, study co-author and an interventional cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said, as quoted by NBC News.
Broken heart syndrome occurs when a part of the heart becomes enlarged and fails to pump blood properly. The condition shares some similar symptoms with a heart attack, such as shortness of breath and chest pain, according to the American Heart Association.
Fortunately, most people with the syndrome can be treated. The Mayo Clinic said recovery from its symptoms commonly takes a month or two.
To find the link between rising cases of broken heart syndrome and the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers gathered medical records from 1,914 patients at two hospitals in the Cleveland Clinic health system.
The team analyzed data provided before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a coronavirus pandemic and during outbreaks in the U.S. An average of five to 12 cases were reported in an eight-week period before the pandemic, but the number increased to 20 when COVID-19 started spreading in the country.
Health experts, who are not involved in the study, said it provides interesting and concerning findings. But the rise in the cases of broken heart syndrome amid the pandemic is not surprising, according to Lynn Bufka, a psychologist and senior director of the American Psychological Association.
“We have known for a long time that the experience of stress has an impact on the body,” she said.