The stress of the pandemic has wide-reaching consequences
What is “broken heart syndrome”?
“Broken heart syndrome,” or stress cardiomyopathy, occurs when physical or emotional distress causes dysfunction or failure in your heart muscle. Because symptoms include chest pains and shortness of breath, those experiencing an episode think they’re having a heart attack. Other symptoms include irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure and fainting.
Experts still don’t fully understand what causes an episode. But physicians believe a person’s reaction to physically or emotionally stressful events releases stress hormones that temporarily reduce the heart’s ability to pump – causing it to contract less efficiently or irregularly instead of in a steady, normal pattern. Hence, the nickname “broken heart syndrome.”
Experts still don’t fully understand what causes an episode. But physicians believe a person’s reaction to physically or emotionally stressful events releases stress hormones that temporarily reduce the heart’s ability to pump … Hence, the nickname “broken heart syndrome.”
The difference between an episode of stress cardiomyopathy and a heart attack, though, is that unlike with heart attacks, the patients don’t have blocked coronary arteries. And most patients who experience stress cardiomyopathy make a quick and full recovery and there’s rarely major damage to the heart.
That’s not to say it’s totally harmless; it has sometimes been known to cause a major cardiac event and, rarely, death. But most patients generally recover within a few days and are treated with medicine that lowers their blood pressure and slows their heart rate.
How coronavirus factors in
When you’re talking about stressful events, a global pandemic surely qualifies. Whether it’s worrying about loved ones who are at risk, job loss, trying to balance work-from-home and family, the isolation of quarantine or any number of other aspects of the outbreak, live the last few months has, really, been nothing but stress.
And its that stress that might be leading to the presence of stress cardiomyopathy in COVID-19 patients.