New Delhi: COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, can damage the heart muscle and affect heart function. It affects the inner surfaces of veins and arteries, which can cause blood vessel inflammation, damage to very small vessels and blood clots, all of which can compromise blood flow to the heart or other parts of the body. As the body’s immune system fights off the virus, the inflammatory process can damage some healthy tissues, including the heart.
Although the mortality rate for patients suffering from heart attacks has increased in comparison to pre-COVID days, medical experts claim more people have died of heart attacks due to COVID.
“There is a higher incidence of heart attacks in patients who were Covid-positive, but do not have any traditional risk factors like diabetes hypertension or high cholesterol. Even patients between the age of 20 to 25 years, who suffered massive heart attacks, have succumbed to it,” Dr N Sridhara, Senior Consultant – Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Hospitals was quoted as saying by The New Indian Express (TNIE).
Heart attack cases increased seen mostly in May and June, said Dr Pradeep Kumar Senior Consultant – Interventional Cardiology, Aster CMI Hospital. “There was a surge in acute heart attack cases due to increased clot formation during May and June. Even younger patients suffered heart attacks,” he was quoted as saying.
A study conducted by doctors from Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research in June found that 26 patients who recovered from Covid, suffered a heart attack even after seven to eight weeks of recovery. Dr C N Manjunath told TNIE that the patients did survive with treatment.
However, Dr Abhijit Vilas Kulkarni, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Apollo Hospitals told TNIE, though there is definitely an increased number of cardiac cases in post-Covid patients, it may not have any links to Covid. “There are a lot of other factors at play. Increased stress due to the pandemic, lack of medical care and late identification of symptoms are also responsible. Many are stressed during the pandemic. They have lost jobs and family members, there is an uncertainty about everything. Stress is a very important trigger for cardiac problems,” he added. Dr Sridhara said that in Covid patients, there is an increased risk of blood clotting in arteries, which can lead to cardiac issues.”
Heart Rate and COVID-19
If you are experiencing a rapid heartbeat or palpitations after COVID-19, you should contact your doctor. A temporary increase in heart rate can be caused by a lot of different things, including dehydration. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids, especially if you have a fever, said cardiologist Dr Wendy Post in hopkinsmedicine.org. Symptoms of a rapid or irregular heart rhythm may include:
- Feeling your heartbeat rapidly or irregularly in your chest (palpitations)
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, especially upon standing
- Chest discomfort
What are the signs of a heart problem after COVID-19?
“Severe fatigue is common after infection with the coronavirus, just as it is after any serious illness. Many people experience shortness of breath, chest pain or palpitations. Any of these problems could be related to the heart, but they could also be due to other factors, including the aftermath of being very ill, prolonged inactivity and spending weeks convalescing in bed,” said Dr Post.
A diagnosis of heart failure after COVID-19 is rare. But if you have shortness of breath or leg swelling after COVID-19, you should contact your doctor, who may recommend evaluation by a cardiologist if tests indicate you are at risk, she added.
Solutions and precautions
- Regular physical activity
- Healthy diet
- Quitting smoking, alcohol
- Yoga/meditation to reduce stress
- Do not ignore breathlessness, pain in the chest region, arm region, burning sensation in the chest, stomach
Is heart damage caused by COVID-19 permanent?
According to Dr Post, if symptoms are due to a cardiac cause, recovery depends on the severity of the injury. “Very few people have a severe heart attack, such as an acute myocardial infarction or MI due to COVID-19.
Research on heart problems after COVID-19
Research shows that there is still a lot to learn about lasting heart effects on people who have had COVID-19. In some cases, patients are left with signs of heart damage that may call for continued monitoring.