Research has reportedly identified a spike in cases of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome,” over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts said the potentially fatal stress-induced heart condition is disproportionately affecting women.
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“I don’t know how much we can really blame COVID, or how much of this is that we’re just recognizing more of it,” Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Barbra Streisand Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Los Angeles, told “Good Morning America” on Monday. “But, heart disease is the leading killer of women and all ages, including teenagers, midlife women and older women. This is just a component of that major killer. So, it’s really something that needs to be addressed.”
Merz said one in five of those who suffer from the heart-brain disorder will have another attack within a decade.
In an October news release, Cedars-Sinai shared Smidt Heart Institute research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, which suggests that middle-aged and older women are being diagnosed up to 10 times more often than younger women or men of any age .
The study suggested that the condition has become more common, with incidences rising since well before coronavirus swept the globe.
“Although the global COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges and stressors for women, our research suggests the increase in Takotsubo diagnoses was rising well before the public health outbreak,” Susan Cheng, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute and senior author of the study, said in a statement. “This study further validates the vital role the heart-brain connection plays in overall health, especially for women.”
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Cheng and her team used national hospital data from more than 135,000 men or women diagnosed with Takotsubo syndrome between 2006 and 2017 to reach these conclusions.
Researchers are still working to investigate the longer-term implications of the diagnosis and its risk factors.
According to Harvard University, citing the American Heart Journal, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a weakening of the left ventricle – the heart’s main pumping chamber – usually due to severe emotional or physical stress.
The main symptoms of broken heart syndrome include chest pain and shortness of breath, and the Mayo Clinic notes that it can mimic a heart attack.
The clinic and Harvard both note that the precise caorse of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is not clear, but that some believe a squeezing of the large or small arteries or changes in heart muscle cells or coronary blood vessels could play a role.
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Complications from it include low blood pressure, heart failure, blood clots in the heart, arrhythmias and pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.
The Mayo Clinic also said the use of certain drugs may lead to broken heart syndrome, including anxiety or emergency medications and nasal decongestants.