Does COVID-19 Impact Cardiovascular Health? Expert Explains
Edited By: Swati Chaturvedi
Last Updated: February 19, 2023, 12:00 IST
Patients with a history of COVID-19 should pay extra attention to their cardiovascular health
Persistent tiredness, dizziness, a pounding heart, chest pain, shortness of breath, joint pains, brain fog, and anxiety, are all symptoms of long COVID
While the world seems to have reset back to pre-covid life, many are still recovering from a myriad of health problems often referred to as long COVID. Even if the COVID-19 infection was mild, lingering symptoms can appear weeks or months after detection and can happen to anyone. Persistent tiredness, dizziness, a racing or pounding heart, chest pain, shortness of breath, joint or muscle pains, brain fog, and anxiety, are all symptoms of long COVID observed in affected patients.
Alongside long COVID cases, we are seeing that sudden cardiac arrest cases have also significantly increased in India, especially in younger age groups. According to research from the American Heart Journal, people in their mid-30s to mid-40s are witnessing a 13% increase in sudden cardiac arrest. The correlation between heart health and COVID-19 is something that cardiologists and researchers are probing into across the world. To investigate this further, a study is being conducted by The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Several cardiologists and forensic experts from AIIMS will conduct a review of the most recent cases of sudden cardiac arrests and a verbal autopsy, to determine the cause of death – COVID-19 being one of them.
“COVID-19 affects one’s organ systems in numerous ways, especially Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS), where different body parts swell up, affecting their functioning. While most individuals recover completely after 12 weeks, in some cases, the symptoms can last longer. It is challenging to draw a definitive conclusion on long covid causing chronic health issues given the unavailability of global data,” says Dr Rakesh Kumar Jaswal, Director & HOD Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Mohali. However, if one complains of persistent chest pain that is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sweating, or shortness of breath, urgent medical intervention is advised.
A possible link between COVID-19 & Heart Health
Patients with a history of COVID-19 should pay extra attention to their cardiovascular health. Research has shown that the risk of developing heart ailments is ‘substantially’ higher among COVID-19 survivors than those with no history of the infection. “Individuals who have previously been diagnosed with a heart ailment such as heart rhythm disorder, suffered a heart attack, have a weak heart or have a family history of cardiovascular diseases are the most vulnerable to a sudden cardiac arrest,” adds Jaswal.
Individuals with any of these conditions are at a high risk of long COVID and must remain extra cautious, keeping their heart health as the main priority. Additionally, if the individual suffers from any of the below symptoms, a medical checkup is advised on an immediate basis:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats
- Unexplained high-pitched whistling sound made while breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting or near fainting
Effective Surveillance is Key
To reduce the risk of heart ailments and prevent cardiac arrests, it is recommended that every individual in their 30s must undergo timely preventive screenings, evaluate familial risks, and take appropriate action. Even if one is occupied with work, one must try to incorporate some exercise into their schedule. Everyone must be mindful of their diet, gain strength, and practice breathing exercises and yoga to keep the body active.
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“Patients who are at risk of experiencing heart ailments or more specifically cardiac arrests can get an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) device. It is a device that can monitor and improve the heartbeat and deliver electrical shocks during potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias to restore the normal heart rate. It is a tiny, battery-operated device that is inserted into the chest to track patients’ heartbeats and identify irregularities,” opines Jaswal.
With the rising cases of sudden cardiac arrests across the country, the more everyone knows about the condition, the more prepared they will be to handle an emergency. Individuals must take the appropriate steps to keep their hearts healthy and talk to experts about cardiac arrest warning signs, ensure people around are equipped with the right training in CPR and have information about the advanced treatment ahead.
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