"Not only do patients who have heart disease have a higher incidence of having that bad prognosis but also COVID-19 can also cause heart problems," said Dr Gupta, "It's a double-edged sword."
Dr Sameer Gupta, Director of Interventional Cardiology, Metro Hospital & Heart Institute in Delhi talked about the link between cardiovascular diseases and COVID-19 in a discussion with DataBaaz on the long term effects of COVID-19.
This statement ties in with findings of two studies from Germany that highlight the same problem — the impact COVID-19 disease has on the heart. According to a report in Stat News, it is too soon to say if the damage in patients recovering from Covid-19 is transient or permanent, but cardiologists are worried.
Link Between COVID-19 And Cardiovascular Problems
For patients with pre-existing conditions like coronary diseases, blockages, and weak heart muscles, the mortality rate from COVID-19 is on the higher side.
While for patients who haven't had pre-existing heart conditions before COVID-19, there is a risk of developing a wide range of heart diseases like developing abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and higher incidence of muscle weakness (cardiomyopathy), elaborates Dr Gupta.
But he points out there is some data to show that the weakness in the heart muscles is a temporary phenomenon."We don't have long-term studies to support these findings but there are a few reports that show heart functions can return to normal with the right medication," he said.
The few who develop heart problems because of COVID-19 belong to an older demographic which already has co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes, pre-existing heart disease.
One of the major heart problems that are generally seen with COVID-19 is myocarditis which is caused when the heart muscles swell up. Though at this stage it's difficult to know the cause, Dr Gupta pointed out that data gathered from autopsy results suggest that it is the inflammation in the body that causes heart muscle injury and myocarditis, and not the other way around.
"So if there is a massive infection or a massive inflammation, which is happening in the body it does affect the heart also," said Dr Gupta.
Other Longterm Effects Of COVID-19
Along with the heart, the other major organs affected by COVID-19 are the lungs and the coagulation system. "With COVID-19, the blood becomes thicker because there are various changes in the coagulation pathway, and there is a higher incidence of having blood clots, which travel to the lungs and cause a high mortality rate," said Dr Gupta.
Other long-term effects of COVID-19 have also been examined by several papers around the world. A team of doctors from Columbia University, which has seen a large number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic's beginnings, collected examples of COVID-19 impact on organs. The paper showed that COVID-19 patients who have been discharged have to deal with multiple organ damage like blood clots, kidney damage and more.
Also read: Explained: COVID-19 Damages Multiple Organs Apart From Lungs
Other long term effects of COVID-19 range from myocardial problems, gastrointestinal problems and headaches. In an earlier interview with DataBaaz, Dr Jeenam Shah cited patients who were on a ventilator because of COVID-19 developed lung fibrosis later on, and need oxygen therapy at home.
Dr Gupta has had a firsthand experience with COVID-19, where he and his spouse developed a mild form of COVID-19. But he feels there is more hope of learning more about the virus in the future. He says, "Every day new treatments are coming up, we know a lot more than what we knew six months ago, and six months later we will know a lot more than what we know today. So, I think it is very gratifying as a scientist, cardiologist, a doctor to see how everybody has come together."
-Patients with COVID-19 are at risk of developing heart problems.
-Few reports suggest that these heart problems might be temporary.
-The few who develop heart problems because of COVID-19 belong to an older demographic which already has comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, pre-existing heart disease.
Catch the full interview on YouTube or click on the link here.
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