The Effects of Long Covid on Cardiovascular Health

06.05.2021

The vast majority of us know COVID-19 as a virus that attacks the body’s respiratory system. We know that those affected tend to experience shortness of breath and coughing, and in serious cases, the use of ventilators is required to support the lungs. But did you know that COVID-19 also poses a serious threat to your heart?

Just over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, extensive research is being done to investigate the long term effects of coronavirus. As of March 2021, long covid is reported to affect an estimated 1.1 million people in private households in the UK. Whilst fatigue, muscle pain, and difficulty concentrating are commonly reported symptoms, there is increasing evidence to suggest the damage COVID-19 can cause to the heart. In this article, we will be exploring the effects of long covid on cardiovascular health, and outlining the steps you can take to look after your heart.

How does COVID-19 affect the heart?

Over the past year, various research has been carried out to explore how COVID-19 affects the heart. The overarching findings of these studies show that COVID-19 can damage heart muscle, regardless of whether a person has experienced mild or severe covid symptoms. This is a concern as damaged heart muscle puts a person at a higher risk of developing heart complications in the future.

Research from July 2020 looked at the hearts of 100 patients who had recently recovered from COVID-19. Using cardiovascular MRI scans, the research was able to identify 78% of patients had cardiac involvement and 60% had inflamed heart muscle (these findings were independent of any pre-existing medical conditions).

Further research carried out by the British Heart Foundation looked at heart abnormalities in hospitalised  COVID-19 patients. As many as 50% of 1216 patients’ heart scans showed abnormalities in their heart function. Not only this, but worryingly 1 in 7 of these heart abnormalities are likely to have a major effect on a patient’s recovery and ultimately their survival. Developing research also shows that nearly 25% of people in hospital with COVID-19 develop myocardial injury or some other kind of injury to their heart tissue.

Is lack of oxygen the cause?

One cause that may be behind the links between COVID-19 and heart damage is lack of oxygen. When a person is fighting infection, particularly in the case of covid, the body demands more oxygen but is faced with a decreased oxygen supply; this can result in damage to the heart. When the heart fails to receive adequate supplies of oxygen, permanent damage may occur, leading to symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue, right through to more serious conditions such as heart palpitations and even angina.

Those suffering from pre-existing heart conditions

As we know, those suffering from underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to COVID-19; this includes pre-existing heart conditions. People with cardiovascular disease are more than twice as likely to contract severe forms of COVID-19, a weakened heart finds it more difficult to fight off the illness. In the UK, around twice as many people are living with heart and circulatory diseases than with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined (British Heart Foundation); showing how widespread this disease is. Worryingly, a high number of heart conditions go undetected, therefore so many people are unknowingly susceptible to experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms, which may require hospitalization. It’s important to make yourself aware of the heart health symptoms, and get anything of concern checked by a health professional.

Since the onset of the pandemic, one change in society is how much more aware of our health we are. At LycaHealth, we can work with you on a personalised, preventative healthcare plan to help you live a happier and healthier life. Learn more about one of our popular health screening services below…

Cardiac screening

As a private healthcare provider ourselves, we provide access to efficient diagnosis and treatment for heart conditions, allowing you to bypass the backlog within the National Health Service. One of our most popular health assessments is cardiac screening, with our most advanced cardiac screen including the following tests:

  • Consultation with a physician
  • ECG
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood tests: Full blood count, Renal function, Thyroid function, Full lipid profile, glucose, HBA1c, CRP
  • CT Coronary calcium score
  • 24-hour Holter
  • Exercise stress test
  • Echocardiogram
  • 7 day Zio patch
  • CT Coronary Angiogram (incl. calcium score)
  • MRI Cardiac
  • Follow-up

With so many health conditions going undetected, cardiac screening helps us to catch anything problematic early and work with you on creating a plan to improve your heart health. Make your health a priority in your life with LycaHealth, get started on your new health journey with us today. Get in touch with the team to see how we can help.

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