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Effects of COVID-19 on the heart post recovery

Updated on 28 July 2021

Even many weeks after recovery from COVID-19, people have been reporting unfavorable health effects on the body. These symptoms are referred to as ‘long-haul’ symptoms that appear long after initial recovery. Though COVID-19 is known to primarily affect the health of our lungs, it also affects other organs as well with long-term health problems.

Why problems in the eart arise?

COVID-19 causes lasting damage to the heart by damaging the muscles, which can in turn interfere with overall functioning. This happens due to a few reasons, which are:

  • Receptors of heart cells are damaged when the COVID virus attaches to them before entering the cells

  • The inflammatory process that happens when the immune system fights against the COVID virus can damage healthy heart tissue

  • COVID virus damages the inner linings of veins and arteries, thereby interfering with blood flow to the heart

Signs, symptoms, and conditions

Signs, symptoms, and conditions experienced may include, 

  • The feeling of the heart beating rapidly

  • The feeling of irregular heartbeat (palpitations)

  • Discomfort in the chest

  • Lightheadedness/dizziness (when standing)

  • Severe fatigue

  • Profuse sweating

  • Persistent cough

  • Rapid weight gain due to fluid retention

  • Loss/ lack of appetite

  • Increased urge to urinate

  • Shortness of breath

  • Swelling of the ankles

  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)

  • Possible increased risk of heart failure (rare)

  • Chance of a heart attack (very rare)

Risk factors that may lead to the aforementioned signs and symptoms are,

  • Prolonged periods of inactivity/ sedentary lifestyle

  • Spending weeks convalescing in bed

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure/ hypertension

  • Cholesterol

  • Suddenly stopping heart medications

  • Lung disease

When should you see a doctor?

Two groups of symptoms, in particular, should be closely monitored, and accordingly should have medical attention promptly under the following circumstances. Contact the nearest heart hospital in Hyderabad for a better understanding of the situation.

Shortness of breath

  • Worsening shortness of breath when lying down

  • Increased shortness of breath during exertion

  • Fatigue induced by shortness of breath

  • Swelling in the ankle accompanying shortness of breath

Chest pain

  • Persistent pain in the chest

  • Nonsevere chest pain

  • New chest pain that subsides in 15 minutes

  • Exertional chest pain relieved by the rest

Heart tests that can be done:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) to test for possible arrhythmia

  • Echocardiogram to detect problems in/ with heart valves and heart chambers

  • Troponin blood test to determine if/ which heart muscles are damaged

  • MRI to find out the extents of damage/ structural problems/ inflammation to the heart

Precautions to be taken for good cardiac health post-recovery from COVID

  • Get your heart checked after recovering from COVID

  • Do not stop any medications for the heart if any

  • Immediately report symptoms (such as chest pain, breathlessness, sweating) to a doctor

  • Stay well hydrated throughout the day

  • Get screened for underlying heart conditions such as tachycardia

  • Exercise regularly

  • Do not try to overexert

  • Continue taking normal medications for general health

  • Eat wholesome, and nutritious foods consistently

  • Stay calm, relax, and try not to panic

  • Do not self-diagnose any symptoms

  • Avoid self-medicating at all costs

  • Heed to advice from your doctor

  • Get vaccinated promptly and without any hesitation

Potential heart risks for children who have recovered from COVID

  • Treatment options in the rare case of heart failure:

  • Medications for the heart

  • LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) procedure

  • Heart transplant

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