Broken Heart Syndrome Cases Spike

Major life stresses, such as the sudden death of a close loved one, an unexpected job loss, or even a serious argument can trigger stress cardiomyopathy or Takosubo (TTS) cardiomyopathy, commonly known as broken heart syndrome.  Over the past two years of the pandemic, research shows a significant increase in the condition that mimics a heart attack but if detected quickly, can be treated with medication. 

According to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, the pandemic has led to many additional emotional stresses including worries about heart health.  TTS can also be triggered by physical stress from a car accident, being severely injured, having a serious health problem, or surviving a choking episode.  

Warning signs of stress cardiomyopathy can include chest pain, shortness of breath with activity, and fainting.  Any of these or other symptoms that may mimic a heart attack should be followed up with immediate medical attention.  Treatment with medications like a beta-blocker can help dampen the adrenaline response and get the heart functioning normally again over a period of several weeks. 

Managing stress is also important to help prevent serious health conditions like TTS as well as other chronic illnesses.  Taking time to decompress with yoga, meditation, a walk in nature, journaling, or listening to music can help lessen feelings of anxiety than can increase the body’s stress response, which if left unchecked can cause harm.   Limiting time on screens, and unwinding with a book, a craft project or a warm bath can help calm a busy mind, lower stress, and improve sleep. 

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy has become more common over the past 20 years, especially among women between the ages of 50 and 75.   In addition to the psychological stress associated with COVID-19 in both the general population and COVID-19 patients, research also suggests that natural disasters are also likely to be linked with an increase in TTS cases.  

Learn more about broken heart syndrome by following this link to the Cleveland Clinic Health Library.