DENVER (CBS4)– The coronavirus pandemic has been stressful for many people. For one Denver woman, that stress and anxiety ended up being too much for her heart. Margaret Van Vliet suffered what is called stress cardiomyopathy or “broken heart syndrome.” Now, twice a week, Margaret gets her heart pumping with supervised exercise.
The executive director of a nonprofit has a hard time believing she is in cardiac rehab.
“Completely, totally blindsided,” Margaret told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
At 63 years old, Margaret leads an active life. She is a non-smoker with no family history of heart problems. But on Oct. 12, she was extremely flustered over accidentally sending out two different invitations to one Zoom call.
“Everybody was starting to call and text and email,” she said. “The second I felt that stress, I was overcome by this wave of tension, of tightness and tingling.”
Margaret, a nurse, took aspirin. After her two-hour Zoom, she was rushed to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center.
“It looked to the world, the way she presented, that she had a heart attack,” said Dr. Anthony DeCicco, interventional cardiologist.
But, it turns out, Margaret had what is called broken heart syndrome caused by a surge in stress hormones.
“And then the response to the stress hormones, the surge as you put it, is too strong,” explained DeCicco.
The hormones prevented Margaret’s heart from pumping properly.
“I never felt I would manifest stress like this,” Margaret said.
The pandemic, the election, the division in the country… Margaret says all have given her anxiety. She believes her emotional distress over the Zoom triggered the heart trouble.
It occurs mainly in women over 50 years old.
“I have learned that 2 other women,” said Margaret, “have experienced the exact same thing within the past 10 days.”
With exercise and medications, Margaret is expected to fully recover. She said her three daughters have told her to chill. Margaret is taking that to heart.