Recent research shows that the increase in the amount of anxiety and stress in public due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased risk of heart diseases, specifically Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome.
Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome is a condition of the heart in which the main pumping chamber of the heart, i.e. the left ventricle becomes weak. This is primarily a result of grave emotional or physical stress including the sudden loss of a loved one, a serious accident, or a sudden and severe worsening of health. The main symptoms are indistinguishable from those of a heart attack but it generally includes chest pain and shortness of breath.
Although the specific reasons for this syndrome are still not known, events that either affects the body physically or emotionally can lead to a surge of stress hormones that impact the heart’s ability to pump normally. This results in changes in the heart muscle cells or the coronary blood vessels and an ultimate blockage of the left ventricle to contract effectively. Broken heart syndrome occurs almost exclusively in women.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to evolve and reach its peak, it has become the reason for numerous levels of stress in different sections of society across the country and world. The first category of people to be highly vulnerable are the ones dealing with unemployment and poverty. Following this are those facing psychosocial issues comprising of discrimination, abuse, harassment, etc. The least vulnerable to higher risks of stress or anxiety in this list are people who have a friend or family member with COVID-19 infection.
Dr. Ankur Kalra, study co-author, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist in the Sections of Invasive and Interventional Cardiology and Regional Cardiovascular Medicine conducted a study from 258 patients visiting between March 1 and April 30, corresponding to the time when the pandemic was first taking off in the U.S. and compared with patients who reported before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was eventually found that 7.8% of patients were diagnosed with broken heart syndrome during the pandemic, compared with 1.5% to 1.8% before the pandemic. Additionally, patients who had broken heart syndrome during the pandemic stayed at the hospital for longer than those in the pre-pandemic groups did.
The most that we can do is connect with our family and friends and take care of ourselves until the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic reduces or we can rely upon an effective drug to cure us of the infection. Maintaining social distance and practicing meditation and exercise can help to relieve a lot of stress and anxiety.