Can COVID 19 Affect Your Heart Health? Here's What Expert Says?
COVID (Corona Virus Disease-19), a disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has infected millions and killed thousands worldwide so far. Primarily considered to be a respiratory disease (affecting lungs), new evidence suggests the virus can also cause heart injury, even in individuals with no previous history of heart issues.
Affect Your Heart’s Health
The inflammatory response of cytokine storm caused by an overwhelming immune system response to the infection has been attributed to cause the lung damage in COVID-19. Cytokines are proteins produced in our body which are involved in various body functions including inflammation and tissue repair. As a response to the infection by virus, more in relation to the load of the infection (known as viral load) cytokines are produced in large numbers: known as Cytokine storm. This cytokine storm is associated with release of immune cells which are responsible for the lung damage. Similar response has been associated with the heart injury in COVID 19. The heart is the organ which pumps blood to all the tissues of the body. The inflammation of the heart is known as Myocarditis. The inflammation of the heart muscle leads to weaker pump function of the heart. This in turn results in heart failure. The inflammation can also affect the rhythm of the heart and lead to irregular heartbeats known as arrhythmia.
Affect on Heart Patients
COVID-19 poses a greater risk to people who have underlying conditions related to cardiovascular health (related to heart) including: Coronary heart disease (blockage of blood vessels in heart), diabetes, high blood pressure and previous stroke. People in these groups are also more likely to develop severe symptoms if they get sick. The patients with history of long-term coronary artery disease have an increased risk of developing an acute coronary syndrome (heart attack) during acute infections, which has been shown previously in studies of influenza (flu) and other acute inflammatory conditions. Such events could result from the severe increase in myocardial demand triggered by infections that precipitate myocardial injury or infarction, as described previously. Alternatively, circulating cytokines released during a severe systemic inflammatory stress could lead to atherosclerotic plaque instability and rupture (increasing the blockage in the blood vessels supplying the heart.
In addition, acute/fulminant (life threatening) myocarditis as well as heart failure have been reported with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and could be expected to occur with SARS-CoV-2, given the two viruses are similar. Two articles published in JAMA Cardiology from 2 academic hospitals in Wuhan, China have particularly helped in understanding the above concepts related to cardiac involvement in COVID-19 patients.
With no definite treatment currently available prevention of the infection seems to be the best approach to not have the cardiac complications of the COVID 19. It is very important to follow the recommendations prescribed for getting infected by Coronavirus.
Being at increased risk doesn’t mean you’re destined to get the disease—or that you will develop a serious case if you do catch it. But as usual, prevention is the best medicine.
Please do follow the following:
- Use a face mask
- Practice social distancing and stay home
- Wash hands often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If you can’t get to a sink, use hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face and have stock of all your prescription medications.
- Seek treatment if any new symptoms, like Chest pain or discomfort, trouble breathing, weakness, confusion.
And make sure to eat healthy and exercise regularly to maintain heart health for the future. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week—about 20 to 30 minutes, 5 to 7 days a week. The physical activity needs to be done under the guidance of your physician.
For more information on Coronavirus affecting heart you can consult online at Ask A Doctor.