The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful time for everybody. Not only are people afraid of contracting the virus but there is also a large sense of an unpredictable future, the inability to work and socialise, and a lack of many things that make us feel human.
Losing such large stabilising factors in our lives causes tremendous stress, whether we’re aware of it or not. A study published on Thursday, July 9, proves just that.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have found a large increase in patients experiencing stress cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as “Broken Heart Syndrome” during the ongoing pandemic.
The condition is a response to both emotional and physical stress. It causes dysfunction or failure in the heart. Those who suffer from it usually experience symptoms similar to that of a heart attack. They have chest pain and shortness of breath, however, they do not have acutely blocked coronary arteries.
A patient diagnosed with Broken Heart Syndrome may have enlargement in the left ventricle of the heart, and may experience an irregular heartbeat, fainting, low blood pressure and cardiogenic shock.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about multiple levels of stress in people’s lives across the country and world. People are not only worried about themselves or their families becoming ill, they are dealing with economic and emotional issues, societal problems and potential loneliness and isolation,” said Ankur Kalra, M.D., a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist in the Sections of Invasive and Interventional Cardiology and Regional Cardiovascular Medicine, who led the study.
“The stress can have physical effects on our bodies and our hearts, as evidenced by the increasing diagnoses of stress cardiomyopathy we are experiencing.”
The researchers studied patients at two hospitals with heart issues, who were treated recently and compared them to other patients with similar issues over the last two years. According to the study, patients during the COVID-19 pandemic were two times more likely to have broken heart syndrome.
Included in the study were 1,914 patients from five separate two-month periods, including a sample of more than 250 patients hospitalized in March and April. The study found that the upsurge was probably linked to stresses caused by the pandemic, including the quarantine.
“The pandemic has created a parallel environment which is not healthy,” Kalra told CNN. “Emotional distancing is not healthy. The economic impact is not healthy. We’ve seen that as an increase in non-coronavirus deaths, and our study says that stress cardiomyopathy has gone up because of the stress that the pandemic has created.”
The study was relatively small, and did not include an investigation into the direct relationship between the virus and broken heart syndrome. The methodology was also questioned by various other researchers and scientists.