ItHome Cardiac Arrest Coronavirus may cause long-lasting heart damage; American Heart Association commits $2.5 million for research

Coronavirus may cause long-lasting heart damage; American Heart Association commits $2.5 million for research

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Coronavirus isn’t just bad for the lungs, it’s also bad for your heart, The American Heart Association said in a statement released Friday.

Vascular inflammation and heart problems resulting from COVID-19 appear to be common, as suggested by a March study from Wuhan, China. Cardiac problems happen in 20% to 30% of hospitalized patients and contribute to 40% of deaths, the Chinese study found.

And cardiac problems can linger even after a person recovers from COVID-19.

COVID-19 may lead to heart attacks, acute coronary syndromes, stroke, blood pressure abnormalities, clotting issues, heart muscle inflammation and irregular heartbeats, the AHA said.

Heart complications connected to COVID-19 can be direct or indirect, said Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine at University Hospitals.

A direct complication happens when the coronavirus attaches itself to the heart muscle, leading to inflammation or heart failure, Rajagopalan said.

Indirect complications happen when patients experience an exaggerated, severe inflammation throughout the body, called a cytokine storm. This inflammation can lead to heart failure, Rajagopalan said.

People who have preexisting heart conditions are at high risk for suffering heart complications if they get COVID-19, Rajagopalan said. “They should take all the necessary precautions” for avoiding the virus, such as wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds, he said.

Dr. Curt Daniels, director of the Adolescent and Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program and the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, confirmed that he has seen heart damage in athletes with COVID-19.

Daniels spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on the heart at Gov. Mike DeWine’s Thursday briefing. DeWine asked Daniels to talk about COVID-19 and athletes in light on the Big Ten’s recent decision to cancel its fall football season.

Between 10% and 13% of athletes who tested positive for COVID-19, and had their hearts examined, showed evidence of heart inflammation. All of the athletes had mild cases of the illness, Daniels said.

There is the danger of a serious heart problem if the heart is inflamed and stressed during exercise, Daniels said.

“So, it’s not just athletes but anyone at a high level of intense exercise could be at risk,” Daniels said. That’s true for triathletes or folks working out at their neighborhood gym.

More research is called for to examine the link between COVID-19 and heart damage. The AHA has committed $2.5 million to research how the virus affects the body’s cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems, the organization said.

More than 150 participating U.S. hospitals have contributed almost 14,000 patient records to the AHA’s COVID-19 CVD Registry. The national dataset will be made available to COVID-19 researchers.

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