A New Danger: Does COVID-19 Affect the Heart?

February is American Heart Month, so it’s the perfect time to overhaul your lifestyle and create new routines that can support heart health. You already know that too much saturated fat, sugar, and salt can put your heart at risk. Unfortunately, the new coronavirus poses yet another serious threat to our hearts. Even those with healthy lifestyles aren’t guaranteed safety.

Serious Cardiac Complications: COVID-19 and the Heart

One of the most common questions we’re asked these days is, “Does COVID-19 affect the heart?” Unfortunately, it can—nearly 25 percent of those hospitalized for coronavirus symptoms have heart complications. Recent studies suggest that heart damage from the virus may be even more widespread.

It can be difficult to predict whether someone will survive a battle with the coronavirus. Age is a factor, along with certain medical conditions, such as obesity or cancer. These and other preexisting conditions contribute to a person’s risk of death or severe complications from the virus. Evidence shows that COVID-19 patients with cardiovascular disease have an in-hospital mortality rate of 25 to 38 percent. This frightening statistic shows why people with preexisting conditions must be extra careful and avoid any social contact that could put them at risk.

A growing body of evidence suggests that there’s a connection between COVID-19 and the heart for those without preexisting conditions. You don’t even have to experience severe symptoms to be at risk. A study from JAMA Cardiology found heart abnormalities in 78 percent of participants who had recovered from the virus. Ongoing myocardial inflammation was discovered in 60 percent of the patients.

If you have preexisting heart conditions, such as heart failure or pulmonary hypertension, you’ll want to be extra careful to maintain distance and avoid contact with anyone who might be carrying the coronavirus. These heart issues increase your chances of severe illness from the coronavirus, as well as ongoing adverse effects like myocardial inflammation.

The CDC recommends that anyone with preexisting heart conditions continue following their doctor’s recommendations for diet and lifestyle along with maintaining social distancing and hygiene practices.

Myocarditis, COVID-19, and their Post-Recovery Danger

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can lead to arrhythmias and eventual heart failure. Researchers are working as quickly as possible to understand the connection between myocarditis and COVID-19. During one study, researchers looked at the pathophysiology of myocarditis and concluded that the inflammation results from direct damage from the virus, as well as the body’s immune response.

Although myocarditis and COVID-19 don’t always occur together, milder heart issues, such as heart palpitations, are common. COVID-19 and heart palpitations don’t always indicate myocarditis, but if you’re experiencing this symptom, it’s wise to talk to your doctor.

Experts advise watching for the following symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling of the ankles
  • Dizzy spells or lightheadedness

All of this may sound frightening, but there’s reason to maintain hope. More research needs to be done before we will fully understand the long-term effects of the new coronavirus. Nonetheless, research on similar heart damage from other viruses shows that it’s possible for some of the cardiovascular damage to heal over time. Doctors can also treat some types of heart damage with medication.

COVID-19 and the Heart: Antibody Testing

Determining whether you’ve had the virus is important, especially if you’re concerned about the connection between myocarditis and COVID-19. An antibody test will determine whether your immune system has recently dealt with a case of the new coronavirus.

Antibodies are proteins that assist the body in fighting off viruses. They can remain in the system for months after a person recovers. Whether or not you have preexisting heart conditions, the presence of antibodies can help your doctor decide on the best course of treatment for your heart.

COVID-19 and Heart Palpitations: Get the Answers You Need at MD Now

At MD Now, our affordable Heart Health Risk Assessment is a preventative measure you can take to ease your mind. All of our 55+ MD Now locations offer Health Risk Assessments along with COVID-19 evaluations. Find your nearest location today!