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ABC News: 'Broken Heart' Cases Surge During COVID, Especially Among Women

ABC News and CBS News recently interviewed Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center in the Smidt Heart Institute and the Irwin and Sheila Allen Chair in Women's Heart Research at Cedars-Sinai, about a surge of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy—also known as "broken heart syndrome"—mainly among women.

Cedars-Sinai has been tracking rising cases of broken heart syndrome, a rare form of heart disease that can be triggered by intense emotional or physical stress. Symptoms of the condition, including shortness of breath and chest pain, can appear similar to a heart attack.

Bairey Merz, who is also a professor of Cardiology, told ABC News that cases of broken heart syndrome have gone up 10 times faster among middle-aged women and older women than among younger women and men over the last decade. Cedars-Sinai is still gathering data, but Bairey Merz is not convinced that the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for the recent spike in cases.

"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," Bairey Merz 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."

One of Bairey Merz's patients, Elaine S. Kamil, MD, told CBS News that she was diagnosed with broken heart syndrome after the unexpected loss of her son. Kamil began to experience chest pain and shortness of breath, but the cardiologist she was seeing at the time said she was fine. Kamil later received the correct diagnosis.

"The pain was severe. I got lucky. I think it's important to make sure that whoever you're seeing—cardiologists understand Takotsubo [cardiomyopathy] and what the best treatments there are," Kamil told ABC News.

Click here for the complete stories from ABC News and CBS News.