Groundbreaking research by several top American medical centers has identified a COVID pandemic spike in cases of so-called “broken heart syndrome,” a potentially deadly stress-induced heart condition that doctors say is disproportionately impacting women.
“My heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest,” said Mary Kay Abramson, 63, of Brookeville, Maryland, who was diagnosed with the condition last year. “It just felt like the blood just couldn’t get through the heart fast enough.”
An otherwise healthy and active corporate travel agent, Abramson said the episode occurred without symptoms or warning signs and even surprised the doctors trying to diagnose it.
“[My cardiologist] comes up to my head and says, ‘have you been under a lot of stress, because your arteries look fine?'” Abramson said of the hospital bed conversation last year. “So, yeah, a little bit: I’ve been furloughed for three months. COVID is going on. You know, can’t get out and do things. We’re shut down. So, yeah, I have been under a lot of stress!”
It was a classic case of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome, her doctors say. The rare but dangerous form of heart disease is triggered by intense emotional or physical stress when a sudden flood of hormones is believed to stun the heart into pumping less efficiently.