COVID-19 is now known to have a significant impact on the heart, in addition to its effects on the lungs. As more and more people get infected with the virus, it is becoming increasingly important to consider it a risk factor for heart disease. The evidence of COVID-19's impact on heart health has been growing over the past few years, and a recent analysis by the American Heart Association showed that the number of deaths related to heart disease increased significantly during 2020, with the number of Americans dying from cardiovascular disease rising from 874,613 in 2019 to 928,741 in 2020.
The age-adjusted mortality rate, which takes into account changes in the older adult population from year to year, also increased for the first time in a decade in 2020. This highlights the important trend of understanding the impact of COVID-19 on heart health. COVID-19 has both direct and indirect impacts on cardiovascular health, with the virus being associated with new clotting and inflammation, as well as many people with heart disease and stroke symptoms being reluctant to seek medical care during the early days of the pandemic.
Research shows that COVID-19 has a significant impact on heart health, even if the infection is mild. The Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai found that deaths from heart attacks rose significantly during COVID-19 outbreaks, and were most significant among individuals aged 25-44, who are not typically considered high risk for a heart attack. The study suggested that the difference was likely due to stress and inflammation, caused by the biological interaction of the virus with the cardiovascular system. Another study in the United Kingdom found that individuals infected with COVID-19 were more likely to suffer from several cardiovascular conditions, including myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, heart failure and deep vein thrombosis, both in the short and long term.
The authors suggested that COVID-19 patients should be monitored for at least a year after recovery for cardiovascular problems.
Research from Ziyad Al-Aly found that individuals who were reinfected with COVID-19 were twice as likely to die and three times more likely to be hospitalized, as well as three times more likely to suffer from heart problems. The high number of COVID-19 infections in the US, which is likely higher than reported due to asymptomatic cases and unreported at-home test results, means that more attention needs to shift to those who are getting infected multiple times as COVID-19 is expected to circulate for years to come.
A preprint study on medRxiv has shown that long-term cardiac symptoms in COVID-19 survivors are common and can last for months or even over a year. The systematic review of over 100 studies on the impact of COVID-19 on the heart found that 4% of COVID-19 survivors reported chest pain and nearly 3% reported heart arrhythmia. Although the percentages seem small, they represent a significant number of people, highlighting the need for more attention to be paid to the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the heart.