The effects of Covid-19 on the heart are detrimental and may lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other major cardiovascular events in the first 12 months of Covid recovery, a study under review for publication in the Nature journal found.
The risk increased with the severity of the initial illness, the researchers found. They compared the risks of heart complications in 151,195 veterans who survived Covid to the risk in more than 3.6 million of their peers who didn't contract the pandemic disease. The study was conducted under the aegis of Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the clinical epidemiology center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri.
Cautioning against underestimating the effects of the disease, Dr.Ziyad Al-Aly said that even those who did not suffer from severe infection were at risk of developing heart complications and blood clots even a year later.
One in seven Covid patients who developed a more severe form of the illness (such as those who were put on ventilation support) were more likely to experience an adverse cardiac event in the next one year the study claimed.
Dr.Ziyad also said that governments and health care systems around the world should take more notice of the phenomenon as contracting Covid was associated with a 5.8-fold increased risk of cardiac arrest and almost a 14-fold greater chance of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle. However, since the research was mostly conducted on white American men, the results may not be generalised to a larger population yet, the researchers cautioned. Researchers are still trying to unravel the causes of heart damage in Covid patients.
Possible mechanisms include lingering damage from direct viral invasion of heart-muscle cells and the cells that line blood vessels, blood clots and aberrant and persistent inflammation, the authors said.