What Patients need to know about COVID-19’s effect on the Heart?

With the death rate just above 5.5%, the novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has shaken the world. The Coronavirus is a spectral virus with mild to deadly symptoms that can happen to any age group and gender. Specifically, advanced age and the male sex are more prone to an increase of severity in infection. To find a cure, researchers are frantically trying to create various vaccine formulas in hopes of boosting our immunity to the virus. Subsequently there is little research on the symptoms that may arise with COVID-19. However, there are two common bodily responses that arise with severe COVID patients: lung injury and cardiac damage

 

Preliminary research indicates that patients who were infected (both mild and severe cases) most commonly have compromised respiratory systems. This means that the lungs have to work overtime as the virus continues to harm the lungs. Fundamentally, the lungs reoxygenate the blood while the heart helps pass blood all along to the body. Clearly this creates an issue when a patient has the Coronavirus. An infected pair of lungs makes the heart work inefficiently by passing poorly oxygenated blood through the body (possibly harming other systems). Our bodies imitate a domino effect, each body system reacts with another -  when one system is harmed it can also prevent the others from working as efficiently. 

 

Now, let's focus on the heart. COVID-19’s impact on the heart has 3 main effects that lead to cardiac damage: arrhythmias, heart failure, and pulmonary embolisms. These three complications arise in two main ways. The first method comes from a heart condition that was previously silent and undiagnosed. This is believed to occur because the virus triggers various safety measures in the body to best attack the virus - potentially revealing the heart condition. The second method is through pre-existing issues that worsen with interaction from the virus. As the body compensates for the infection, the heart muscle can develop severe inflammation that prevents the heart from efficiently working. Consequently, this leads to grim consequences when dealing with a severe patient. Arrhythmias are different in every case as possible remedies may be simple lifestyle changes all the way to a pacemaker, defibrillator, or even death. Heart failure, as found through infected patient analysis, is less common but can be quite severe if it happens. This can occur due to pre-existing health conditions like high cholesterol and diabetes. A combination of the virus and existing health conditions have been known to cause more severe symptoms in infected patients. Pulmonary embolisms, however, are a little different from heart failure and arrhythmias, as they have been noticed in about 30% of severe patients. Pulmonary embolisms are blood clots that travel the body and get stuck in a lung artery. Although it sounds scary, hospitals and doctors nationwide are able to help solve the issue through various methods such as blood thinners (anti-coagulants). 

 

Sure, the symptoms are quite daunting, but they are more prevalent in severe patients. So, it is important to remember that 80% of COVID cases are determined to be mild; however, it is still beneficial to be cautious to prevent the infection from spreading. The majority of cases don’t truly deal with most of these symptoms. Several previously-infected patients have noted that the milder symptoms are as listed:

Symptomatic patients have noted that the symptoms (listed above) mimic the flu in severity and duration. To be safe, once any symptom arises, testing is advised in order to begin isolation and the road to recovery. Isolation is a method in which we have begun to use to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus as it is unique in its methods of transmission. Primarily, the Coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets (almost microscope particles that fly out of our mouths when we speak/breath). Under isolation we prevent this spread. But because symptoms may arise in as much as two weeks from infections, we’re all asked to wear masks when leaving our households. The masks are not just for our own protection but for everyone else’s. By preventing respiratory droplets from being spread we help slow the spread of the virus.



Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7197627/
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html
https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/04/covid-19s-consequences-for-the-heart/
https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-its-like-to-survive-covid-19
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/modes-of-transmission-of-virus-causing-covid-19-implications-for-ipc-precaution-recommendations
https://www.hematology.org/covid-19/covid-19-and-pulmonary-embolism
https://medlineplus.gov/pulmonaryembolism.html#:~:text=A%20pulmonary%20embolism%20(PE)%20is,oxygen%20levels%20in%20your%20blood

This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930 for a same day appointment. Thank you and have a great day!

Author
Yesh Dhruva, Writer for Modern Heart and Vascular Institute Yesh Dhruva Yesh Dhruva is an incoming freshman at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a biology major and in the Medical Scholars program with Conditional Acceptance into Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine. Yesh has aided Dr. Agarwal and fellow investigators to write medical abstracts for the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography and the American College of Cardiology. Additionally, he enjoys spending his free time with family and friends.

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