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Can COVID-19 Cause Heart Problems?


Can COVID-19 Cause Heart Problems?

COVID-19 —an infectious disease with severe respiratory problems— has emerged as a worldwide pandemic. Early evidence suggests this disease may also affect the heart, and about 20% of the patients had signs of heart cells injury.

This holds even for otherwise healthy patients who developed blood clots, blood vessel injuries, strokes, and heart attacks. 

So, the common question here is how the virus, COVID-19, affecting the heart?

Research offers two possibilities for this incidence: the possibility of the Coronavirus directly affecting the cardiovascular system and inflammation caused by the virus infection. The incidence of this being higher in patients with preexisting heart diseases.

According to a study published by the Journal of Emergency Medicine, the coronavirus can cause lasting heart impairments. Besides, the drugs used to treat COVID-19, such as remdesivir, may also worsen heart damage in patients with cardiovascular diseases.

How COVID-18 damages the heart

As discussed before, the COVID-19 virus can damage the heart due to inflammation or direct injury to the heart cells.

COVID-19 and Inflammation

The COVID-19 infection results in the release of inflammatory chemicals (cytokines), injuring even healthy cells, resulting in inflammation. A widespread inflammatory response can load the heart, causing it to work harder while the body is fighting the infection.

Experts believe that patients with an intense inflammatory response are more likely to get a heart attack or other heart disorders. 

Direct Injury To Heart Muscles

The cells of your heart have angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors. The coronavirus can attach to these receptors, damaging heart cells. 

Besides, the COVID-19 infection can also damage small blood vessels and form blood clots. All this can compromise blood flow to your heart, depriving the cells of oxygen and nutrition and thus resulting in a heart attack.

Symptoms of Heart Problems

Some common indications of heart problems are:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting or dizziness, especially upon standing
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased sweating

Signs that indicate a medical emergency are:

  • Bluish face and lips
  • Sudden chest pain with breathlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Frequent urination at night

People With Underlying Heart Conditions and COVID-19

Many COVID-19 patients already have an underlying health condition. Experts believe that these patients are at an increased risk of COVID-19 complications. Besides, patients with pre-existing heart diseases are more prone to cardiac complications as they already have abnormal blood flow to the heart and compromised blood vessel function.

As the heart has to pump blood harder due to COVID-19, the cells may be damaged, and the patient may get a heart attack.

COVID-19 Medicines and Heart Problems

Many patients with COVID-19 may receive one or more of the mentioned medications:

  • Antivirals
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Glucocorticoids

These medicines are mainly given to fight an infection or alter your immune system. However, the mentioned medicines may trigger an underlying heart condition in many patients.

Antivirals and NSAIDs, in addition to affecting the immune system, may also impact heart muscles. This may cause fatal heart rhythm disorders or worsen heart recovery.

The mentioned medicines can also increase blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disorders.

Moreover, glucocorticoids may increase blood sugar levels and trigger complications in patients with an underlying heart disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is A Person with A Heart Condition at An Increased Risk Of COVID-19 Infection?

The shorter answer to the question is a “No.” Anyone can catch the COVID-19 infection. However, people with an underlying heart condition or other disorders are more prone to a severe infection or complications than the general population.

Is The Risk Of COVID-19 Complications Similar for All Patients? Or It Differs for Those With A Heart Disorder?

The process of catching an infection is the same for everyone. The virus can travel through the droplets in the air from a COVID-19 positive patient’s sneezing, coughing, or talking. The virus may also transmit from touching the contaminated surfaces as it can survive there for several hours.

On entering the body, the virus damages the lungs, resulting in reduced oxygen levels. The virus also triggers an inflammatory reaction that causes the heart to beat faster, damaging the heart cells.

While this complication can occur in anyone with a COVID-19 infection, the mentioned groups are at an increased risk than the general population:

  • People with immunosuppressive disorders such as blood cancers
  • Elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • People with an underlying heart disorder such as heart failure

Are Patients with Heart Disorders and Also Have Diabetes or Hypertension At Greater Risk?

Some studies suggest that patients with cardiovascular disorders, and hypertension and/or diabetes are at a greater risk of COVID-19 related complications.

But the good news is that all the necessary precautions and taking the required medications may prevent the risk of complications.

Should I Stop My Heart Disease Medication or Change Their Dose If I Get COVID-19?

Not at all. Stopping the medicine or changing its dose without consulting your doctor could be dangerous and may even worsen your condition. There are high chances of taking medicines that protect you from heart failure, hypertension, stroke, or a heart attack. And not taking medicine will only put you at a higher risk.

So, please continue taking your medicines as prescribed. In case of any doubts, consult your healthcare professional immediately.

Final Thoughts

Although majorly a respiratory condition, COVID-19 can also affect your heart cells, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disorders. The reason for this being a widespread inflammation triggered by the virus. Besides, the coronavirus can attach to the receptors of heart cells and damage them.

All this may also put additional stress on the preexisting heart disorders.

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