One study has found a worrying increase in cases of broken heart syndrome in the US. Picture: BMJ
One study has found a worrying increase in cases of broken heart syndrome in the US. Picture: BMJ

Freak heart issue spikes during pandemic

It turns out coronavirus is bad for our health even if we don't contract the virus, with cases of one rare condition spiking during the pandemic.

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has found cases of stress cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as broken heart syndrome, increased when the pandemic first broke.

Broken heart syndrome can happen when situations of extreme stress or emotional distress cause the heart muscle to malfunction or even fail.

It can be triggered by a number of things such as a relationship breakdown, job loss or the death of a loved one or any kind of life upheaval, of which there have been plenty during the pandemic.

"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," cardiologist Dr Ankur Kalra, who led the Cleveland Clinic study, said in a statement.

RELATED: Follow the latest coronavirus updates

 

"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 study looked at 258 patients who presented to the Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Akron General between March 1 and April 30 who had heart symptoms.

Of those, 7.8 per cent were diagnosed with broken heart syndrome. This was a massive increase in the number of cases they usually saw before coronavirus, which was just 1.7 per cent.

The study also found that those diagnosed with broken heart syndrome during the pandemic had longer hospital stays to recover, however, there wasn't an increase in deaths.

Those behind the study are now calling for more research to be done on rates of the syndrome during the pandemic, as well as calls for people to see their doctor if they're feeling overwhelmed.

The 60-year-old woman contracted broken heart syndrome after mistaking wasabi for avocado. Picture: BMJ
The 60-year-old woman contracted broken heart syndrome after mistaking wasabi for avocado. Picture: BMJ

While broken heart syndrome will usually occur during situations of extreme stress it's not impossible for it to happen for other reasons.
Last year the British Medical Journal reported that a 60-year-old Israeli woman had experienced broken heart syndrome after eating something spicy.

The woman had been at a wedding when she ate a teaspoon of wasabi, expecting it to be avocado with the spicy condiment triggering a sudden pressure in her chest that then spread to her arms.

She went on to make a full recovery after being treated in hospital for four days, with doctors giving the woman ACE inhibitors, heart medication to widen your blood vessels and beta blockers.

 

This Texas couple died 45 minutes apart after they both contracted coronavirus.
This Texas couple died 45 minutes apart after they both contracted coronavirus.

'NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT': COUPLE DEATHS SKYROCKET

The new research comes amid growing reports of couples, the majority who are elderly and have been married for decades, dying within moments of each other after both are stricken down with COVID-19.

While there is no solid scientific data on just how many couples have died after getting coronavirus, the news cycle has been inundated with stories of long-term loves who have died within days or sometimes even hours of each other since the pandemic began in March.
A New York Times article in May described the phenomenon as "the coronavirus version of dying of a broken heart".

One man who had been a funeral director for 36 years told the newspaper it was a crisis that devastated family members left behind.

"Entire households are becoming ill, and then the deaths of husbands and wives become a part of this crisis," Stephen R. Kemp, a funeral director from Michigan, told the Times.

"I've never seen anything like it."

Earlier this month Texas couple Betty and Curtis Tarpley died within the same hour of each other after falling ill with coronavirus, CNN reported.

The couple had been married for 53 years and held hands in the moments before they died, with hospital staff wheeling their beds into the same room so they could be together.

Their son Tim Tarpley said Betty was the first to die, with Curtis following just 45 minutes later.

Originally published as Freak heart issue spikes during pandemic



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