COVID-19 Impact on Heart Health

It’s been almost five months since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency. Even after all this time, there is still constantly new information learned about this virus. Originally, it was thought that COVID-19 was primarily a respiratory disease, but as more patients have contracted the virus and been treated, it has become increasingly clear it has many physiological complications. A recent study has found that the virus can cause heart injury, even in patients without underlying heart issues.

The study, published in JAMA Cardiology, found that COVID-19 can worsen existing cardiovascular disease and even cause new heart problems in otherwise healthy people. Dr. Mohammad Madjid the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of cardiology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, told Healthline explained, “We know that the cardiac injury risk is there, no matter if you had prior heart disease or not. So prior heart disease is a risk factor for higher mortality in these patients. Cardiac injury also is a risk factor, but this can happen to people who are free of heart disease.”

COVID-19 creates a very extensive inflammatory response within the body. This response can cause numerous complications within the cardiovascular system. The American College of Cardiolofy listed the following heart implications from Chinese COVID-19 case reports in late February 2020:

  • Patients with underlying heart conditions are at higher risk for complications or mortality from COVID-19 and up to 50 percent of hospitalized patients have a chronic medical illness.
  • 40 percent of COVID-19 patients have cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease.
  • 16.7 percent of patients developed arrhythmia.
  • 7.2 percent developed acute cardiac injury.
  • 8.7 percent of patients developed shock; 3.6% developed acute kidney injury.
  • Rates of complication were universally higher for ICU patients.
  • Some COVID-19 patients develop myocarditis.

Furthermore, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention research showed that the death rate for COVID-19 patients with heart disease in mainland China was 10.5%.

This is especially concerning since there are possible interactions between drugs currently being tested as COVID-19 treatments and medications administered for heart problems. Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medication currently going through a clinical trial as a coronavirus treatment, interactions with drugs used to regulate the heartbeat. It may also cause direct myocardial toxicity and worsen cardiomyopathy, a problem that can lead to heart failure. Additionally, remdesivir, an antiviral medication that’s the only FDA approved COVID-19 treatment can cause low blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythm.

Rather than relying on these treatments to treat COVID-19, the latest research suggests that Chinese herbs may also play a significant role in treatment. It has been found that Chinese herbs may inhibit the invasion and replication of the virus. These herbs also help an immune regulatory response on the body by modulating the inflammatory response. There is more information on how to use Chinese herbs to treat Coronavirus in the video below.

Regardless, if you have an existing heart disease and take any medications that can interact with the current coronavirus treatments, it’s extremely important to be wary of this new information and take extra precautions to protect yourself. Remain vigilant, being sure to continue social distancing and wearing a face mask, especially if you’re in an area that’s going through a phase of reopening. If you experience any symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitation, or deterioration of pre-existing cardiac condition, be sure to seek medical advice as soon as possible and consider getting a test, as testing is readily available now.

As the world begins to reopen and get back to normal, we have to do our best to still be conscious of the risks, especially for anyone suffering from any diseases or conditions that compromises their immune system. There is still new information being learned about COVID-19 every day. So long as we’re remaining aware of these new findings and following preventative measures, we can keep ourselves happy and healthy.

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