Has COVID-19 news been stressing you out?
We have been confronted with an upswing in the pandemic for over six months. We have confined ourselves to our homes, washed our hands religiously and above all double and triple-checked everything we touch or eat. Sometimes it feels frightening to think how it will ever be when COVID-19 is over. Of course, stress also increases rapidly. COVID-19 stress is very real and has a devastating effect on our lives, fearing the symptoms, hospitalization or just the safety of our loved ones.
If you thought that the stress and fear of getting COVID would only restrict your movement, think again. Experts now say that increasing stress associated with COVID-19 also manifests itself in frightening symptoms of heart problems or the notorious “broken heart syndrome”.
Here’s why you should be concerned
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported, scientists have been trying to decipher the many different effects of the virus infection on our body. However, a new study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) found that as the number of cases increases, doctors are finding that people with symptoms similar to those of a broken heart syndrome are hospitalized for heart attacks.
While scientists are quick to claim that broken heart syndrome is not usually a symptom of infection, the physiological and emotional stress caused by the pandemic means that many people are exposed to this problem and the condition is very serious.
What is broken heart syndrome?
It may sound made-up, but the broken heart syndrome is very real and can cause permanent damage. Broken Heart Syndrome refers to a condition that mimics symptoms of a heart attack that may occur due to trauma or intense stress. Although the disease is not as fatal or life-threatening as a heart attack, it is just as real.
How is it different from a heart attack?
The only real difference between a heart attack and a “broken heart” is that although the former causes artery blockages, the latter feels like a heart attack but does not cause problems such as a blockage.
What are the symptoms?
Both the heart attack and the broken heart syndrome have very similar symptoms, including stabbing chest pain, shortness of breath and sweating. Arrhythmias, shock, agitation of the crowd and irregular heartbeat can also be a symptom of this condition. You may be very easily affected even if you have not had any heart problems or precursors to heart disease of any kind in the past.
Medically, it is also called stress cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo syndrome because most situations are due to stress or a traumatic trigger that puts unbearable pressure on the heart.
How is it related to COVID-19?
While it is usually a consequence of painful situations such as loss of a loved one, separation, devastation, experts say that the insecurity and stress caused by COVID-19 is as monumental and traumatic as all the others. The study, conducted by lead authors at the Cleveland Clinic, also claims this.
At the same time, the researchers compared the medical histories of patients who were hospitalized eight weeks before the start of the pandemic and eight weeks during the peak of infection with a broken heart syndrome. While 5-8 cases were recorded before the pandemic, there was an increase in broken heart cases in the fifth week after the start of the pandemic, with up to 20 people complaining of symptoms.
Why is the broken heart syndrome increasing now?
There can be many different triggers for a broken heart. But the pandemic brought the world to a standstill. Many are fighting for their lives, working extra hours, some have lost family members and friends, others are grieving for jobs or finances. There is also a lot of instability, considering that social isolation and quarantine is a new concept for us. The stigma surrounding the infection can also cause a person to experience psychological stress, which in turn can manifest itself as heart problems.
Do not ignore stress
While the research emphasized that conditions such as a “broken heart” can become a health risk or stress disorder, it also said that this should never be ignored. Stress of any kind should be treated immediately to avoid later effects.