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Broken Heart Syndrome: How COVID-19 Can Take Its Toll Even If You Don't Get It

Doctor listening to woman's heart.
It's tempting in the current pandemic to seek a COVID-19 test for any symptoms of concern, but you should instead seek evaluation by a medical professional.

Broken heart syndrome, or stress-related cardiomyopathy, is heart dysfunction brought on by some form of emotional or physiological stress. A new study suggests the COVID-19 pandemic can contribute to this problem.

Dr. Kami Banks, a cardiologist with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Allen, explained to KERA’s Sam Baker why researchers undertook the study. 


Interview Highlights:

The Study

We have found in observational studies all around the world that people are under, or at least perceive, much more stress during the coronavirus pandemic. They wanted to figure out if the stress of being in a pandemic was related to more stress-induced cardiomyopathy. 

The Results:

  • During the coronavirus pandemic, there were four to five times higher rates of stress induced cardiomyopathy compared to before the pandemic.
  • They also found that those people that had stress-induced cardiomyopathy stayed in the hospital longer than those people who had stress-induced cardiomyopathy in the pre-coronavirus pandemic. 

The Takeaway

  • The virus does cause an acute respiratory syndrome. It has other non-respiratory outcomes, but we cannot forget that just the stress of being in a pandemic in and of itself is a separate issue that we need to take seriously.
  • We have seen in our country as well as other countries, job loss, higher rates of depression, higher rates of suicidality, higher rates of domestic violence, all of these things. And we may not be dealing with that stress as well as we could be. Anytime that happens, then you can be at higher risk for things like stress-induced cardiomyopathy.

Should You Get A COVID-19 Test When Broken Heart Syndrome Symptoms First Appear?

When you have any symptom that is concerning to you, the best thing to do is to be evaluated by a medical professional who will then decide about whether or not this warrants a COVID-19 test and whether or not this warrants a cardiovascular evaluation.

Treatment For Broken Heart Syndrome

After a diagnosis, we have to remove the stressor, whatever the stressor is, and protect the heart. Usually that’s with medications known to be helpful in remodeling the heart.

Preventing Broken Heart Syndrome

We should all look at things we can do to help with our emotional and physical well-being. For example, if you were one to engage in regular physical activity before the pandemic, and now after the pandemic, all of the gyms are closed and all of your regular activities have been disbanded. We still have to figure out how to keep that balance in our lives so that we are protecting our hearts in multiple ways.


Cleveland Clinic study

Science Daily: Broken Heart Syndrome & COVID-19

FAQ: Broken Heart Syndrome

COVID-19 and Heart Health

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.