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Effects of COVID-19 on the heart post recovery

28Jul

Effects of COVID-19 on the heart post recovery

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 heart 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 experienced may include:

 

  • Feeling of the heart beating rapidly
  • 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 symptoms in particular should be closely monitored, and accordingly should have medical attention promptly under the following circumstances:
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

By

Dr. Anoop Agrawal
Consultant Cardiologist
CARE Hospitals – Banjara Hills