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Broken heart syndrome may have increased during pandemic for 2 reasons

The idea that two old people in love can’t live long without each other and die from a broken heart, is a true phenomenon, according to cardiologist George Adesina, MD, with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, but the science behind that surge of emotions is more complicated.

“It’s related to people who are having like a severe traumatic experience, grief or extreme sorrow. Essentially, the body releases this adrenaline surge in the bloodstream and that adrenaline can sometimes make a portion of the heart not pump as well as we would like it to. So, they get this temporary heart failure and the symptoms can actually be pretty severe enough where they can almost mimic the signs of a heart attack,” Adesina said.

However, a quick scan usually reveals no blocked arteries and therefore it's not the same as a heart attack, but it is dangerous.

Cleveland Clinic researchers found cases of broken heart syndrome doubled in two of their hospitals in March and April, which is the same time the pandemic ramped up job losses, isolation and concerns surrounding coronavirus. They now believe extreme stress during the pandemic could be causing this increase of broken heart syndrome among the general public.

While at Houston Methodist, Barry Trachtenburg, MD, monitors COVID patients for heart damage. He said it’s not just high emotions that can trigger broken heart syndrome but also an infection. That means both people with increased worries right now and those with a COVID-19 infection are at risk for this syndrome.