Study Links Long-Term Heart Damage to COVID-19

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We know that COVID-19 impacts the lungs and our ability to breathe, but a recent study shows that more than half of people who contracted the virus also suffered some type of long-term heart damage as a result.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, examined more than 1,200 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in 69 countries.

“This was an interesting study,” said Dr. Aneesh Tolat, an electrophysiologist at the Hartford Healthcare Heart & Vascular Institute. “(Researchers) did echocardiograms, or ultrasounds of the heart, (and) found that 55 percent of patients had some form of heart dysfunction.

“Some of the patients in the study, of course, had pre-existing heart disease when they came down with COVID-19, but when the research team removed them from the study results, 46 percent of patients still demonstrated heart dysfunction, Dr. Tolat said.

“We do know that COVID-19 patients who undergo cardiac MRI with a positive troponin blood test show protein damage in the heart,” he said, pointing to supportive research that was recently published in the heart journal Circulation.

These affected patients, he said, were found to have developed scarring and tissue damage in the heart that impacted the organ’s overall function.

Dr. Tolat also said that anyone who already has abnormal heart rhythms or a pacemaker, coupled with associated conditions like diabetes, hypertension or congestive heart failure, is at greater risk of developing COVID-19 and suffering from the serious lingering effects of the virus.

“I think that we’ve learned a lot as a country about how to keep safe, certainly here in Connecticut. I think that we’ve all done a really great job,” Dr. Tolat said. “I tell my patients, though, that we need to continue with the social distancing, wearing a face mask when in public and washing our hands when you’re out and about so that you reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

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