A recent study found a significant increase in “broken heart syndrome” at two Ohio hospitals among several patients who don’t have coronavirus, suggesting that the physical, social and economic stressors from the pandemic are taking a physical toll.
Stress-induced cardiomyopathy or “broken heart syndrome” happens when the heart muscles weaken, leading to chest pain and shortness of breath. It is similar to a heart attack but is triggered by stressful events, not blockages in the bloodstream. This can be lethal in rare cases, but patients usually recover within days or weeks.
According to the study, which was published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, the researchers at the Cleveland Clinic studied patients at two hospitals with heart trouble who were treated this spring and compared them to patients with similar issues over the past two years.
Patients during the pandemic were two times likelier to have broken heart syndrome.
The study had looked at 1,914 patients from five distinct two-month periods, including a sample of more than 250 patients hospitalized in March and April, during the early peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The study concluded that the increase was likely connected to the “psychological, social, and economic stress” caused by the pandemic, which includes “imposed quarantine, lack of social interaction, strict physical distancing rules, and its economic consequences in people’s lives.”
Dr. Ankur Kalra, the cardiologist who led the study said that ‘the pandemic has created a parallel environment which is not healthy.’
“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,” Dr. Kalra said.
The research did not examine whether there was any connection between broken heart syndrome and the stress of having Covid-19 or watching a relative suffer from the disease.
The patients in the study were tested for coronavirus and all of the tests came back negative.
Public health authorities in America and overseas have raised the alarm about the impact of the pandemic on mental health, paying special attention to the isolation of socially distant living.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization said in May that ‘the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is already extremely concerning.’
“Our work provides credence to the other health hazards that the pandemic has created,” Kalra said.
The new study didn’t find any meaningful change in the death rate between pre-coronavirus patients and those who were hospitalized in March and April of this year.