‘Broken heart’ cases surge during COVID, especially among women

Combined ShapeCaption
A 61-year-old woman reported to an emergency room last year reporting chest pains. Doctors found she had takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or "broken heart syndrome." It has similar symptoms as a heart attack but no arteries are blocked. The woman said she was "close to inconsolable" after the death of Meha, her dog.

Experts at Cedars-Sinai, Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins tracking recent increase in cases

Broken heart syndrome, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a temporary heart condition often caused by stress, such as loss of a loved one or serious physical injury. Symptoms often mimic a heart attack.

Experts at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins have been tracking a surge in cases they say are spiking substantially during the coronavirus pandemic.

ExploreBroken heart syndrome cases on rise at ‘skyrocketing rates’

“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, told ABC News. “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.”

Although the recent data is still being gathered, Cedars-Sinai published a study in October that found rates of broken heart syndrome have been rising steadily in both men and women, with women ages 50-74 seeing the sharpest increases.

ExploreWomen’s heart attack symptoms vary. What to look for

Bairey Merz told ABC the cases of broken heart syndrome have risen “up to 10 times faster among middle-aged and older women than among younger women and men” during the past decade. The disease is most common in this group.

“As cardiologists we always think the heart is the most important organ. It’s the brain and the brain controls everything,” Bairey Merz told the news network.

The brain-heart connection is at the center of her research at the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute. According to Bairey Merz, one in five people who suffer a broken heart will have another attack within 10 years.

For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.