Dr. Nidal Yunis, M.D. FACC
Premier Cardiology Consultants
Can Covid Cause Heart Damage?
The short answer is yes. While COVID-19, caused by SARS CoV-2 (simply coronavirus), is primarily a respiratory disease, heart complications can happen even in the absence of significant lung or breathing problems. It is estimated that 1 in 5 patients with COVID will end up with heart complications.
How Does COVID-19 Cause Heart Problems?
There are several mechanisms with COVID-19 that could cause heart damage. One mechanism is a lack of oxygen from lung injury. Another mechanism is myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) which can be caused by COVID-19 directly infecting the heart muscle, or indirectly inflaming the heart muscle from an overreacting immune system. Also, the heart can become weak and lose its ability to pump blood effectively, a condition we call stress cardiomyopathy, caused by excessive release of stress chemicals that can stun the heart. Finally, heart attacks can be more common in COVID-19 patients due to increased tendency of clotting in heart circulation. Arrhythmia and irregular heartbeats, which could be fatal, can occur with any of the above mechanisms.
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Disease in Patients Who Had COVID-19?
Shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, weakness, fatigue, palpitations, ankle swelling, dizziness, fainting, and excessive sweating are all potential symptoms of possible heart disease, especially if they persist after recovering from COVID-19.
If I Have Had COVID-19, Should I Follow Up With a Cardiologist?
This is a time for extra vigilance. It is highly recommended to follow up with a cardiologist if the above symptoms persist after recovering from COVID-19. It is certainly advised to discuss this further with your primary care provider, particularly if you have pre-existing heart conditions or have had a stroke; or if you have cardiac risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity.
How Should Persons With Heart Disease Protect Themselves From COVID-19?
According to recent reports from the CDC, persons with conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes were 6 times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19 complications compared with persons without underlying heart conditions. You should follow the guidelines listed by the CDC by maintaining social distancing, avoiding close contact like hugging and hand shaking, washing you hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, and wearing face masks in public or crowded places,
just to name a few. Also, taking your heart medications that you are prescribed is especially important.