COVID-19 cardiac involvement on the rise

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In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disease was recognized as a respiratory virus. Research shows that the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes more serious heart problems than originally thought.

“We find that COVID-19 can damage the heart directly,” says Dr. Leslie Cooper, chairman of the cardiology department at the Mayo Clinic.

Although people with cardiovascular disease are at increased risk of more serious complications from COVID-19, according to Dr. Cooper puts any person infected with the virus at risk of heart involvement.

“COVID can affect the heart indirectly through inflammatory cells that circulate in your blood and can get into the heart, and by damaging heart muscle cells as well,” he says.

Recently, COVID-related myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, has been the disease that is increasingly of concern. Myocarditis can cause significant heart damage and, rarely, sudden cardiac death if left untreated. “Myocarditis and other forms of heart injuries can affect younger people such as athletes.”

While not everyone needs to be tested, Dr. Cooper announced that patients suspected of having a COVID-19-related heart injury will have tests, including a troponin blood test, which can reveal damaged heart muscle cells, and an electrocardiogram, or EKG, which may show conduction involvement of the heart or damage to the heart muscle. Finally, people who have symptoms of heart involvement and who show an abnormality on a blood test or EKG may have an echocardiogram or other advanced imaging.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Dr. Cooper added that the long-term effects of the virus on the heart are being intensively researched.

“There have been several reports that people are clinically better, but there is still imaging evidence of a heart injury, and we do not yet understand the clinical implications – what constitutes a risk of arrhythmias or future heart failure – from these imaging findings.” , he says. “It will be important to prospectively follow patients to determine actual risk.”

Dr. Cooper adds that we will likely see an increase in testing as results research continues.

He also notes that it’s important for people to be aware of their symptoms, as heart problems may not be obvious. He advises everyone whether or not they have COVID-19 to be aware of new chest pain, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath.

“If you develop new chest pain, especially if you exert yourself or move about, or if you have new breathing difficulties, shortness of breath at rest, or activity, you should undergo an evaluation, which may include cardiac exams.” says Dr. Cooper.

In addition, acute episodes of difficulty breathing, chest pain, loss of consciousness or loss of consciousness, or when you have a fast and irregular heartbeat, according to Dr. Cooper justified a visit to the emergency room.

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