Heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular diseases are more threatening after catching COVID-19. But those treated on an outpatient basis have something to think about and carefully monitor their health.
The damage to the heart caused by Covid-19 continues even beyond the disease’s first stages, according to a study that indicated that even those who were never hospitalized are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and lethal blood clots a year later.
Globally, heart disease and stroke are already the leading causes of death. The additional risk of deadly heart problems among Covid survivors – estimated to number in the hundreds of millions worldwide – will exacerbate the disease’s impact, according to the study, which is being considered for publication in a Nature magazine.
“The aftereffects of Covid-19 are substantial,” says Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the clinical epidemiology center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri, who led the research.
“Governments and health systems must wake up to the reality that Covid will cast a tall shadow in the form of long Covid, and has devastating consequences. I am concerned that we are not taking this seriously enough.”
The researchers discovered that the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other severe cardiovascular events during the first 12 months following Covid recovery increases in direct proportion to the severity of the first illness. They compared the odds of heart issues in 151,195 Covid survivors to those in over 3.6 million of their peers who did not develop the pandemic disease.
The data were gathered from the nation’s largest integrated health-care system. The majority of its users are white and male, which may restrict the study’s findings’ generalizability to other populations, the authors noted.
They discovered that non-hospitalized Covid patients had a 39% increased likelihood of developing heart failure and a 2.2-fold increased risk of developing a potentially fatal blood clot called a pulmonary embolism the following year, compared to those who did not acquire the condition. This equates to an additional 5.8 incidences of heart failure and 2.8 cases of pulmonary embolism per 1,000 Covid patients who never required hospitalization.
The study discovered that hospitalization for Covid is linked to a 5.8-fold increased risk of cardiac arrest and a nearly 14-fold increased risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle. Covid patients who require intensive care are much more at risk, with nearly one in seven experiencing a major adverse cardiac event within a year that they would not have experienced otherwise.
Cardiovascular problems are associated with an increased risk of death among Covid survivors during a 12-month period as compared to persons who were not diagnosed with the pandemic disease:
Researchers are currently attempting to explain the mechanisms underlying the heart damage seen in Covid patients. According to the scientists, possible explanations include persisting harm from direct viral invasion of cardiac muscle cells and blood vessel cells, blood clots, and aberrant and persistent inflammation.
Natural disasters and earlier pandemics have shown that Covid-19’s indirect impacts, including as social isolation, financial difficulties, changes in food habits and physical activity, as well as trauma and grief, may indirectly influence the risk of cardiovascular disease, the researchers stated.
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