Being heartbroken is usually attributed to situations of death and loss, but now, some researchers have found that the Covid-19 pandemic can also have a similar effect on people’s hearts.

One recent study in the US by Cleveland Clinic reported an increase in the number of stress cardiomyopathy cases, otherwise commonly known as ‘broken heart syndrome’, since March this year.

So, what is broken heart syndrome?

According to Mayo Clinic, it is a temporary heart condition that is often “brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions”. 

It feels like a sudden pain in the chest area, and one may think that they’re having a heart attack.

However, the condition is not a side-effect of Covid-19, and can affect those who don’t have the virus.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about multiple levels of stress in people’s lives across the country and world,” said cardiologist Dr Ankur Kalra, who led the research.

“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.

Covid-19 pandemic has caused rise in 'broken heart' syndrome, according to research
Credit: 123RF

“The stress can have physical effects on our bodies and our hearts, as evidenced by the increasing diagnoses of stress cardiomyopathy we are experiencing,” said Dr Kalra.

In the study, which was published on July 9, cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic looked at 258 patients who came in for heart issues within a span of two months. They found that the incidence of cases of stress cardiomyopathy were more than four times higher than during pre-Covid periods.

Rarely fatal, the condition is usually treated with medication to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. Patients usually recover within a few days or weeks.

“While the pandemic continues to evolve, self-care during this difficult time is critical to our heart health, and our overall health,” said Dr Grant Reed, a senior author for the study.

And most importantly, we should reach out for help if we are feeling overly stressed or anxious.

Said Dr Reed: “For those who feel overwhelmed by stress, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider. Exercise, meditation and connecting with family and friends, while maintaining physical distance and safety measures, can also help relieve anxiety.”

This article was first published in AsiaOne.