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June 28, 2022

How COVID-19 Affects Heart Health

IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

How COVID-19 Affects Heart Health

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus that is closely associated with a very important organ—your lungs. We know that this virus lives there and can wreak all kinds of havoc in your body from this location: from cough to fever to shortness of breath, being the main three. We know those with lung problems must be extra careful because of this.

But what about the powerhouse of your body—your heart? For those of you who have a heart condition, you may be asking these questions more than others as it is something that you live with every day.

So let’s dig into this and answer some of your burning questions when it comes to living with a heart condition during COVID-19.

Can COVID-19 Cause Heart Problems?

There are still a lot of effects that COVID-19 can have on the body that are not quite known at this time. It is possible that, due to the inflammation that comes with this virus, several cardiovascular problems could arise, such as:

  • Myocardial Injury or acute infarction (heart attack)
  • Arrhythmias
  • Myocarditis (inflammation), in some cases fulminant
  • Acute-onset heart failure
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stress cardiomyopathy

Additionally, recent studies have been conducted on the long-term effects COVID-19 has on the heart, and it’s been found that 78% of recovered COVID-19 patients have shown structural changes to their heart including inflammation and scarring.

Although there is nothing one can do to avoid these problems should you have COVID-19, it’s important now, more than ever, to maintain a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise regime in order to best protect your heart. It’s also still very important to continue practicing social distancing, hand hygiene and public health recommendations to avoid contracting the disease in the first place.

Am I More at Risk of Catching COVID-19 Since I Have a Heart Condition?

As this virus can be caught by anyone, those with heart conditions are not at a greater risk than anyone else.

Although you are not at more of a risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, those with underlying heart conditions are considered more likely to show symptoms, where others may be asymptomatic, and/or to have a more severe infection caused by the virus.

Am I More at Risk of Dying From COVID-19 Since I Have a Heart Condition?

Universally, the two highest risk factors for death by COVID-19 have been older age and underlying health conditions. Unfortunately, these two risk factors describe a lot of those who do have heart conditions.

Fitting into these two risk factors is not a death sentence; have hope, as many of the reported cases of COVID-19 patients, even those with a heart condition, have had mild infections and have fully recovered at this time.

Should I Cancel any Upcoming Doctor's Appointments for my Safety?

Our doctors’ offices are offering in-person appointments and taking the necessary precautions to keep you, the patient, and our office staff safe.

Also, our virtual visits allow you to meet with your doctor from the comfort of your home should you be feeling sick or uncomfortable with leaving the house.

With so many precautions being taken and additional options being offered, it’s important to keep up with your health and to attend any upcoming appointments.

If I'm Experiencing Symptoms of a Heart Attack, Should I Still go to the Hospital?

Yes. If you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack (shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, faintness), go to the emergency room right away. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, every second counts. Hospital workers will treat you in a segregated and sterilized environment to make sure that you stay safe while in their care.

When in doubt, and it comes to your heart, always seek medical attention right away.

How Can I Learn More About This?

If you have questions about your specific heart condition and how COVID-19 can affect it, make sure to contact your cardiologist.

Wayne Gray, MD, is a cardiologist specializing in interventional cardiology at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital.

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